Cast: Ricky Gervais, Jennifer Garner, Jonah Hill, Louis C.K., Jeffrey Tambor, Fionnula Flanagan, Rob Lowe, Tina Fey, Stephanie March, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jason Bateman, Christopher Guest, Edward Norton
Director: Ricky Gervais & Matthew Robinson
Screenplay: Ricky Gervais & Matthew Robinson
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Running Time: 96 Minutes
Released: 26 Nov 2009
In A World Where Everyone Can Only Tell The Truth... ...This Guy Can Lie.
The Invention of Lying takes place in an alternate reality in which lying 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 a down-on-his-luck loser named Mark Bellison (Gervais) suddenly develops the ability to lie, he finds that dishonesty has its rewards. In a world where 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.
Mark Bellison (Ricky Gervais) lives in a world where telling the truth is the norm. There is no such thing as telling a lie. Everyone accepts whatever everyone else says as the truth - why wouldn't they? Approaching middle-age, Mark's life starts to unravel - he's about to lose his job, he doesn't have enough money to pay the rent so eviction is imminent, he has no love life and his elderly mother is rushed to hospital, terminally ill. And then Mark inexplicably tells a lie, he discovers he's onto something and soon his lies snowball out of control and he's become somewhat of a new messiah.
Ricky Gervais is perfect for the role of Mark. He is Mr. Average personified, totally aware that he is and pretty much ok with that and to that end, Gervais comfortably encompasses the character. There is something infectious about Gervais and his ability to play the underdog who rises above his station whilst not wanting any greater joy than emotional happiness, which in this case he seeks in the form of potential girlfriend Anna, played with an upbeat by Jennifer Garner. It is his pursuit of Anna along with the snowballing discovery of how to lie that fills the bulk of the movie.
It is the inability of the characters to always tell the truth that provides most of the humour when interacting with Mark after his discovery of lying. He pounces on this idea whilst all around him are oblivious to his breakthrough, which does become predictable at times. There are moments when you have to wonder if people really would just come out and state a fact, regardless of the circumstances, just because it is true and these sometimes become irritating. For example, Jason Bateman plays the doctor who attends Mark's mother when she is hospital and he enters the room and announces that she will die, soon, probably within the next day. Not being subtle is the humorous side here but it is the predictability of it that does become a little tedious.
Along with the blatant, a-spade-is-a-spade honesty, religion is a theme that is explored, as Mark's character becomes this god-like hero to the world. He doesn't want the leadership role, yet there is something enticing about having the power that this brings with it and some might be offended at the way Mark's character deals with this issue. He quickly points out that everyone seems to just blindingly accept his word and he tries to encourage individuality, all of his efforts backfiring so that he becomes even mightier.
Some of the other characters are disappointingly underused - Tina Fey's role as a work colleague, Louis C.K. as Mark's friend, Jonah Hill as the suicidal neighbour and Jason Bateman's role as a doctor. All of these had very positive features that are never fully explored. There are also some cameos including a fleeting scene with Philip Seymour Hoffman as a barman and Edward Norton as a traffic cop - these too are just brilliant but too short.
The Invention Of Lying is Ricky Gervais' directing debut and along with co-writer Matthew Robinson, they have produced a witty movie where the dilemma of telling the truth will provide plenty to think about. It's not laugh-a-minute, has the right amount of poignant moments and is a ultimately a welcome addition to the romantic comedy genre.
Rating : ***