28 September 2014

The Invention of Lying (starring Ricky Gervais)

I doubt if I would have considered watching this film, as the reviews are very mixed. However our twenty-something son had bought a second-hand blu-ray after seeing it somewhere else, and suggested we watch it as a family. He said it was ‘interesting’ and ‘different’, and he wanted to know what we would think.

‘The Invention of Lying’ is set in a world where everybody tells the truth. All the time. Some genetic quirk means that nobody is capable of telling a lie - thus everybody is entirely trustworthy. An interesting premise, and one that leads to some mildly amusing scenarios as people greet each other in ways that seem quite rude, yet nobody takes offence. There’s a bit of a fine line between blurting out everything as one sees it, and keeping quiet about some truth, which is not really explored, but the point was well made.

Ricky Gervais plays the main part, that of the screenwriter Mark. He’s a bit short and dumpy, and takes himself rather too seriously. Screenwriting in this world, of course, simply consists of the re-telling of history - fiction, like lying, is an unknown concept. And Mark has been allocated such a dull period of history that he ends up losing his job.

Unsurprisingly there is also a romance; Mark is attracted to Anna (Jennifer Garner) who agrees to go out on a date with him for a friend’s sake. She lets him know that she is not interested in him but then finds that she quite enjoys her evening.

Then, when Mark is at rock bottom, about to be evicted from his flat, something dramatic goes on in his mind - we see the cogs whirring - and he tells the first lie. And gets away with it, because nobody else can even imagine that he might not be telling the truth. After the first time he finds that he can make things up and mislead people as much as he wishes; the only thing he can’t convinced anyone about is that he’s saying things that ‘aren’t’. There’s no word in this world for lies, or even for truth.

All of which is light-hearted fun, and quite thought-provoking, then suddenly the movie alters to be propaganda for atheism. It’s cleverly done, subtly but with the same kind of satirical humour, but is rather a sneaky way of expressing one’s message in what is supposed to be entertainment.

It’s nicely done; the characters are rather exaggerated, but that doesn’t matter much. We were a bit shocked to learn that the rating is only 12A or PG-13; while there’s no violence, and only a few instances of bad language, there are several sexual references - some very direct - which should surely have made this at least a 15.

I doubt if it would be of any interest to younger teenagers, but parents should be aware of the content - the IMDB site has a good parental advisory - if watching it with children around.

Note that the links above are to the DVD versions of this film; blu-rays are also available, but rather more expensive.

Review by copyright 2014 Sue's DVD Reviews

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