A film within a film within a film; resulting in diaphanous characterization; twisted scenarios, locations bouncing from Paris, Rome, New York City, even the most prescient will be challenged to follow the route to perdition. Guilt- ridden men, whining, mournful women, director Paul Haggis’s (“Crash”) convoluted, enervating plot leads to dissatisfaction, frustration and in the end, absolutely bereft of concern for any of the principals portrayed.
Couple number one: “Michael” and “Anna” (Liam Nesson and Olivia Wilde) two writers, one accelerating towards dotage, the other besotted by the Pulitzer Prize winner, wallowing in a May/December pairing; their cutting barbs and game-playing; silly, annoying and pointless. Couple number two: “Scott” and “Monica” (Adrien Brody and Moran Atias) a rip-off fashion designer and a woman trying to buy back her daughter from untoward Italian mercenaries; sickening predictability stymies the process. Couple number three: “Rick” and “Julia” (James Franco and Mila Kunis) are the only two-sum that garnish a smidgen of sympathy; Julia has been barred from visiting their son, vague accusation of child abuse; Mila Kunis’s performance stings with it hopelessness, desperation; a pathetic person incapable of controlling the situation. Minor roles depicted by Maria Bello and Kim Basinger as grieving, disgruntled spouses; limited screen time results in a lack of engagement.
Michael and Anna perpetually communicate in the “third person”; eliminating subjectivity, observers of their doomed coupling; in reality the omnipresent, but unseen protagonists inform a plot that means well, but looses its way somewhere in the alleys of Rome, Paris and New York.