THE INVENTION OF LYING: On General Release From 2nd October 2009
Some call him a smug, one-trick-pony who only plays himself.
Even if this is true, it really doesn’t seem to matter because regardless, Ricky Gervais is going from strength to strength.
Now he’s directing movies and doing it quite well.
In a world where humans haven’t developed the ability to lie, Mark Bellison tells the world’s first and like any good liar (or pringle), once you pop you just can’t stop.
For all the ‘characterisation’ involved, Mark pretty much is Ricky, a self described chubby little loser, who works at a film production company as a writer. But since there are no lies there’s no fiction and so the only films around involve a guy sitting in a chair, reading out what happened in a particular century.
There’s also no imagination and people say exactly what they mean, which allows the usually classy Jennifer Garner to indulge in some fairly on the edge dialogue about masturbation.
You might think that an idea that is conveyed through language in this way might leave room for some little white lies to sneak into the dialogue, but no. Gervais and co-writer Matthew Robinson have a pretty tight script and seem to have covered all of their bases. And just when you think it’s a one-joke show the concept reveals an even funnier new gag (e.g., a retirement home is now called a ‘Sad Place For Hopeless Old People’).
Jennifer Garner is guilelessly sweet as Anna, Mark’s longtime crush. And while he becomes her best friend and confidante, she is looking for a good genetic match so she won’t have ‘little fat kids with snub noses’. Enter devilishly handsome Rob Lowe as Mark’s love rival. Garner’s very impressive here and establishes a great relationship from her unlikely pairing with Gervais.
This film is much more emotional than the trailer would have you believe: Mark’s scenes with his mother are touching and will have you balling like a baby.
When Mark lies to comfort his dying mother by telling her that in the afterlife everything is wonderful and everyone gets a mansion, everything spirals out of Mark’s control. In this ultra literal world, everyone believes that Mark has some insight into life after death.
And so ensues crazy religious confusion, which is interesting but is obviously just a chance for Gervais to bash Christianity.
While the script is well written and you’ll get a good laugh out of it, the editing is lazy and some of the supporting characters are a little underdeveloped. Gervais has also relied on a lot of cameos to bolster the film’s appeal. While the cameos are entertaining, if you’re going to have them in such abundance, at least give the actors something to do. Tina Fey is good as Mark’s snarky secretary Shelly and Stephen Merchant pops up with Shaun Williamson in a flashback.
Unfortunately Christopher Guest and Phillip Seymour Hoffman are kind of wasted here. You’ll also see Edward Norton if you really pay attention (hint: he’s wearing a fake tash).
It’s definitely an impressive film, especially for Gervais as an actor, but at the end of the day, his debut as a director was played just a little too safe.