INVENTION OF LYING, THE
In a world in which even the concept of a lie does not exist, everyone from politicians to advertisers to the man and woman on the street speaks the truth and nothing but the truth with no thought of the consequences. But when down-on-his-luck loser Mark Bellison (Ricky Gervais) suddenly develops the ability to lie, he finds that dishonesty has its rewards. When every word is assumed to be the absolute truth, Mark easily lies his way to fame and fortune. But lies have a way of spreading, and Mark begins to realize that things are getting a little out of control when some of his tallest tales are being taken as, well, gospel. With the entire world now hanging on his every word, there is only one thing Mark has not been able to lie his way into: the heart of the woman he loves.
Review by Louise Keller:
I love Ricky Gervais' humour. It might be that deadpan delivery, or the twinkle in his eye. Or perhaps those distinctively shaped teeth that look as though he might have a vampire as a relative. He's directed plenty of television beyond The Office, but this is his feature directing debut. A brilliant and original concept, The Invention of Lying is witty, seriously funny and utterly charming. The trick to it all is that Gervais' alternate reality, where there is no deceit, flattery or fiction, is grounded solidly in a credible way. All the characters behave in a fashion true to themselves: we accept them for who they are and how they behave. Gervais has great affection for all his characters - and so do we. It would be sacrilege to laugh at them. We laugh heartily at what is happening around them, but there is no threat to the real heart of the film, which is what keeps it real.
The first few scenes, when the film's reality is described, are the funniest. Never has truth seemed so inelegant. Gervais' chubby, snub-nosed Mark Bellison arrives at the smart apartment of his dreamgirl Anna (Jennifer Garner), to be told everything he does not want to hear. The waiter at the 'not expensive enough' restaurant tells Mark he is 'out of his league' and so it goes on. Gervais combines a mischievous look with utter sincerity and as a result he can do no wrong. Garner is lovely as the girl looking for the perfect genetic match but finds herself liking the way Mark sees the world. There has never been a courtship like this before. The extremely photogenic Rob Lowe is a hoot as the physically perfect 'douche-bag' Brad Kessler, who makes a play for Anna, Tina Fey uses words like knives and Jonah Hill looks like a train wreck as the suicidal neighbour. There are fun cameos by Edward Norton as the cop with a cocaine habit and Philip Seymour Hoffman as the ultra dumb barman.
There's a skip in his step when the computers are down at the bank, when Mark stumbles on the thing that changes his life. He doesn't give it a name, but we identify with it straight away. Imperfect people that we are. Money is a stepping stone to happiness for Mark, but what really makes everyone take notice are his revelations about The Man in the Sky and life after death, which he fabricates in a bid to make his dying mother happy. Lies take flight on their own private jet and soon Mark is juggling the inevitable complications. I giggled, I laughed, I shed a little tear and laughed some more as Gervais hypnotises us into his reality. He puts it all together with a light touch; never has lying been so much fun.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
It's a Ricky Gervais film and it's a film by Ricky Gervais ... and his legions of fans won't mind a bit. The premise is intriguing even though we know it isn't taken or treated seriously. A world without lies? You want the truth? You can't handle the truth!* Anyway, it's essentially a clever, long skit about a man who - in desperation - discovers he CAN lie. And he is rewarded. (And let's not get righteous just yet ...) The film makes a gear change about here and shifts into a parody that's so obvious and flat-out silly that it's half amusing. No spoilers, except to say it involves the invention of not just lying but a supreme being. Fine, even noble intentions, though ....
The premise allows the filmmakers latitude to invent a scenario that actually works as irony and satire about our modern world. It shows, humorously, how impossibly confronting it would be if we really didn't lie, flatter and smooth over our social interactions. But once that point is made, Gervais switches into romantic comedy mode, which carries the film to its conclusion.
Gervais is his own target as the fat man with a little bulbous nose, thus (perhaps) avoiding the political incorrectness police; his quest for Anna (Jennifer Garner) becomes the driver of the emotional journey, as he fights against the good looks, success and flair and genetically superior Rob Lowe's Brad Kessler, a suave, well dressed opposite of Gervais' Mark Bellison.
The humour waxes and wanes, the material stretches thin at times and there are several deeply black adventures, one involving a suicidal young Frank (Jonah Hill) and one Mark's dying mother (Fionulla Flanagan). The latter inspires Mark to come up with the biggest invention, which soon engulfs him as people grasp his vision of a heavenly afterlife - previously non existent.
The screenplay feels as if Gervais and his co-writer/director Matthew Robinson were either hobbled or hobbled themselves from going all out into dark satire of organised religion (especially Christianity). It's there, but it's fairly tame and gentle, considering what might have been.
* Ref: Col Jessep (Jack Nicholson) in A Few Good Men (1992).
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INVENTION OF LYING, THE (M)
CAST: Ricky Gervais, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, Jonah Hill, Rob Lowe, Tina Fey, Louis C.K., Jeffrey Tambor, Fionnulla Flanagan, Christopher Guest
PRODUCER: Ricky Gervais, Dan Lin, Lynda Obst, Oly Obst
DIRECTOR: Ricky Gervais & Matthew Robinson
SCRIPT: Ricky Gervais & Matthew Robinson
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Tim Suhrstedt
EDITOR: Chris Gill
MUSIC: Tim Atack
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Alec Hammond
RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Universal
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 26, 2009