April 1, 2010

Movie Review: The Invention of Lying

Within the first ten minutes or so of this movie, there is a conversation between Jennifer Garner and Ricky Gervais that I'm sure will turn off many people I know to the point they won't want to watch the movie. That makes me sad because this movie is one of the funniest ones I've seen in a long time.

"The Invention of Lying" takes place in a world where lies don't exist. They've never heard the word and can't even comprehend the concept. This is a brutally honest world. When I say "brutally", I'm not kidding. It's not just that they can't lie, it's that they are compelled to say what they are thinking and let me tell you, the truth hurts. There are no lies of omission, no skating around the truth. If someone thinks you're fat and ugly, they flat out tell you that you're fat and ugly. I know, I know, it's highly inappropriate and people's feelings get hurt. I think it was the outrageousness of the idea that I found so amusing. Watching this movie I became aware of how many ways we avoid the honest truth to spare those hurt feelings or misunderstandings. It's a kindness to others that we don't reveal what we're thinking every moment.

The story goes like this: Ricky Gervais is crushing on Jennifer Garner but she is in no way attracted to him because he's a "chubby, snub-nosed loser". Then one day, at the end of his rope after the worst day ever, Gervais' brain snaps and he tells a lie. He doesn't understand how it happened but he soon realizes he can take advantage of his new power. He gets his apartment and job back, gains wealth, succeeds at work and gets the attention of Garner. Life is good. Until he tells lies that gain the attention of the whole world. Everyone wants to know how he knows the things that he does and they want answers. Obviously he's telling the truth because no one lies. There's no way to explain what's going on without getting himself into trouble so he has to concoct more lies. It's a bitter cycle that starts to wear him down.

Besides being funny, this movie is a sweet portrait of a man who just wants to be happy and in his world, he would never have a chance by telling the truth. But you can see the endless circle that one gets caught up when lying. There is no way out but through more lies or telling the truth. In the end, he has to make a choice--lie and have the woman he loves, or tell the truth and most likely lose her.

This is a sweet movie. You completely feel for Gervais' character when you know that the deck has been stacked against him for reasons he can't control. But it's also sobering to see how easy it is to slide down that steep hill of lies. (****)

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