The Invention of Lying
I’d be lying if I said the movie was good. But I’d also be lying if I said the idea behind the movie or the acting was bad.
Mark, a failed screenwriter, lives in a world where no one lies – no deception, no fraud, no fiction. But out of the blue, faced with eviction and poverty, Mark invents lying by telling a bank clerk he has more money in his account than the computer says he does.
The premise has loads of potential, and watching the first few scenes of the brutally honest world Mark lives in is pure comedy. The cast, especially Jennifer Garner as the cheerfully honest love interest, is quite good.
But the movie feels like a script sold on its logline, or maybe even an outline/treatment, rather than sold as a whole work of art. After the initial premise is sold, the movie rushes past Mark lying routinely to get what he wants and snowballs into a prophet/religion allegory when Mark lies to his mother about the afterlife. After that, not sure of what to do with what he’s set up, we’re left being told the world has changed very little, the woman he has befriended after two dates still doesn’t love him, but that in the end you can always crash a wedding and be sure the bride will fall for you anyway.
What a disappointment.
And you know, I might not be so mad if the bad movie was just overall bad, and not bad in its execution of the premise. This movie was trying to be too many things, I think. I mean, how can you have a “loser” spontaneously invent the act of lying and not try sharing that invention with anyone? Why rush through a potentially hilarious setup involving Mark being a prophet from the man in the sky to only end the movie like it was a scene from The Wedding Crashers? Why show that, at the end of the day, Mark’s religious lie changed precious little about the world except to give him time enough to convince his love interest to look past physical appearances? And by the way, why did he like her more than anyone else if she was so brutal and honest about her not liking him, even after he became rich and successful? Finally, how can we possibly believe that nothing in the history of the world would have changed for the lack of lying except to turn everyone, including advertisers, into grumpy, rude bores?
None of it was very believable. But what makes it harder to stand is that the premise had potential. I even saw in some of the acting, again especially Jennifer Garner, that there was some life and depth to the characters in this world. Yet, what we’re left with is a funny and original premise followed by about an hour of predictable and yet not-progressively-built checklist-plotting.
Maybe the problems with the story stem from the fact that Ricky Gervais is a British comic better known for inventing half-hour series of dull-ish office sitcoms like The Office, rather than for writing a premise that can be funny and entertaining for 100 minutes. But that’s just a guess – and I’m not lying.