Eye For Film >> Movies >> The Invention Of Lying (2009) Film Review
The Invention Of Lying
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
What would you do if you could lie and guarantee that everybody would believe you? In a world where there is no concept of deceit, Ricky Gervais plays Mark, a downtrodden screenwriter, struggling to make the rent and about to be fired, who suddenly discovers that he has that power. The whole world is his oyster. But can his new-found skills win him the things that really matter?
Lying is a skill which most of us acquire around the age of three or four, and it would have been reasonable to expect a film with this premise to appeal to that mentality. "I'd touch girls' boobs," confesses Mark's friend when asked how he would deal with it. Indeed, Mark is tempted to take that approach, but he quickly discovers that it makes him feel horrible - and that's where this film begins to show its true colours. What in lesser hands would have been another cookie-cut wacky comedy instead turns out to be a gentle, thoughtful, much more genuinely entertaining film with endearing characters and real ideas. Of course, it's been marketed as a wacky comedy so some audience members will doubtless be disappointed, but others will get a delightful surprise.
Beyond this, The Invention Of Lying has some big things to say, occasionally veering into really dark territory despite the good intentions of its hero. In this it is reminiscent of some of the best Ealing comedies. Perhaps most startling of all is its frank handling of issues surrounding religion. It's astonishing to consider how much fuss there has been about Creation when this film, released just one week later, is much more open with its atheist credentials and much more incisive in its approach to problematic aspects of Judaeo-Christian religions, though it remains sympathetic to those who follow them. Many people will find this really refreshing but it will come as quite a shock to others.
In order to highlight the absurdities of much ordinary human behaviour, The Invention Of Lying sticks to quite simple story and character arcs, and in places it could do with tighter editing. For all that Mark is sympathetic, the central romance isn't always strong enough to convince and the story drags in places. What saves it is a beautifully written script full of deftly understated humour and with some fantastic dialogue that had an audience of seasoned critics in stitches - a rare sight. The performances are finely judged - even Rob Lowe as Mark's leering rival. A lot of thought has gone into the ways in which lying forms part of our lives - it might not seem so bad to live in a world where nobody deceives anybody else, but there are plenty of other forms of cruelty, and it's curious to see the impact of the absence of fiction. Ultimately it's implied that greater sophistication can help us approach deeper truths.
The Invention Of Lying comes across as a labour of love, something really special despite its imperfections. And that's the truth.Reviewed on: 29 Sep 2009