Monday, January 23, 2012

The Invention of Lying (2010)

Directors: Ricky Gervais & Matthew Robinson

Starring: Ricky Gervais, Jennifer Garner, Jonah Hill, Louis C.K., Jeffrey Tambor, Fionnula Flanagan, Rob Lowe, Tina Fey, Christopher Guest, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jason Bateman, Edward Norton

More info: IMDb

Tagline: In a world where everyone can only tell the truth... ...this guy can lie.

Plot: It's a world where everyone tells the truth - and just about anything they're thinking. Mark Bellison is a screenwriter, about to be fired. He's short and chunky with a flat nose - a genetic pool that means he won't get to first base with Anna, the woman he loves. At a bank, on the spur of the moment he blurts out a fib, with eye-popping results. Then, when his mother's on her deathbed, frightened of the eternal void awaiting her, Mark invents fiction. The hospital staff overhear his description of Heaven, believe every word, and tell others. Soon Mark is a prophet, his first inventive screenplay makes him rich, and he's basically a good guy. But will that be enough for Anna?

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? Noop.

I'm a huge fan of Ricky Gervais's UK TV comedy, THE OFFICE and I generally really dig this guy's edgy, biting humor. I guess that's why I'm disappointed with this flick which he co-wrote and co-directed. The story is kind of neat and could be ripe with all kinds of possibilities but it somehow misses the mark kind of like Mike Judge's IDIOCRACY - there are some good bits and gags but it left me unfulfilled.

For starters this takes place in a world where no one has ever lied so that means everyone tells the truth. Duh. But what feels strange is that the characters not only tell the truth but speak their inner dialogue which doesn't sit well with me. I could be wrong but speaking your mind and telling the truth aren't necessarily the same thing. My other big issue is, while this looks like a well-made movie, it isn't. It's disjointed and it plays like there are scenes that were cut that would help the structure feel more like a nicely flowing narrative. Oh, the product placement is embarrassing.

There are touches of hilarity and emotion but they don't feel balanced in a way that they are able to compliment each other. There's a really heartfelt scene when Mark (Gervais) concocts a story to make his dying mother happy just before she snuffs it in her hospital bed. I actually teared up. Everyone in the movie believes that when you die, that's it. The lights are out and there is no "other side" (I'm of the same opinion, btw). He basically makes up this story about what most people (not in the movie) believe to be heaven. She dies with a smile on her face. It's here where the movie takes a turn toward religious satire which is hit and miss. I laughed every once in a while but when it was all over it felt like this flick was trying to be two movies and the only way to do this was to compromise. Gervais & co. should have given this one more thought before committing it to film and letting it loose unto the world.

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