Paul Haggis, I’d like to introduce you to subtlety. Subtlety, this is Paul Haggis. It’s clear that you two have not met before.
The Crash writer-director’s latest collection of interlocking vignettes is an overly complicated hash of heavy-handed metaphors and melodramatically one-note characters who are all trying to say something profound about trust, forgiveness, and love — namely, that they’re important. Jeez, got any news on the Hindenburg?
Some of the actors in the star-studded cast manage to skate through this misfire unscathed: Liam Neeson as a blocked novelist obsessed with Olivia Wilde’s romantically masochistic man-eater and Mila Kunis as a hard-luck mother locked in a bitter custody battle with her ex (played by James Franco). But the ham-fisted Haggis isn’t able to keep all their story lines flowing smoothly. Instead, he just pummels the poor audience with clichés and goofy, overstated symbolism. Apparently, things submerged in water — a wristwatch, a cell phone, a euro coin, Maria Bello — are totems rife with deep (and soggy) meaning. The three main narratives cut back and forth between New York, Paris, and Rome, which is the best thing the movie has going for it: picturesque locations. Unfortunately, by the time we’re done taking in the sights and Haggis finally coughs up his third-act puzzle-box twist, it comes off as a big metaphysical So What. C-