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‘The Invention of Lying’ Review

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From the moment you emerge from the vast darkness of the womb, your parents start teaching. “I’m Mommy.” “That’s Daddy.” “Stop crying.” “Don’t ever lie.” That last one is a particular stickler. In the case of one’s growth into an adult, when the inevitable screw-up occurs, it’s usually difficult, but somehow better to just tell the truth. You might get yelled at for screwing up in the first place, but lord help you if you lie about it and get caught later. Then you’ve screwed up twice. The key phrase to this end is, “honesty is the best policy.” But is it? Some people can’t handle the truth, as Jack Nicholson so eloquently put it. If you tell it to them, they refer to it as “brutal honesty.” Is it worth making something up just to make someone feel better? That’s the question asked in The Invention of Lying and it’s a curious one indeed.

Mark Bellison (Ricky Gervais) is a creature who inhabits a world not wholly dissimilar to our own. He works in an office. He has friends. He has enemies. He watches television. The difference between Mark’s world and the one we occupy is that nobody on Mark’s planet has evolved the ability to lie. In fact, they don’t even have words like “truth” or “fallacy” or “real” or “fiction.” People describe things only as they are without a hint of deceit. Believe it or not – though I would never lie to you, dear reader – all this honesty makes for kind of a dry palace, sans fun. It’s reminiscent of that kid in school who raises his hand during the last nanosecond of class and reminds the teacher she forgot to assign homework. People speak their minds. There is no fear of consequences.

Mark is set up on a date with Anna (Jennifer Garner), which almost immediately spells doom. He arrives too early when she was in the middle of something private, frustrating her. Next, she notices he’s fat, short and has a snub nose. How does he know this? She tells him straight up. No need for internal monologue. Voice-over be damned. Apparently when you are told nothing but fact for your entire life, what we know as “brutal truths,” no longer seems like jabs and digs shot straight at the heart. Instead, they are more annoying than anything. Just a day in the life.

When his assistant tells Mark she’s always hated him and he’s about to get fired, there’s perhaps disappointment, but no insult. Mark is a screenwriter for Hollywood films. In his world, screenwriters are the stars, because there are no actors, only people who read the script in front of a stable camera. Scripts are solely based on historical fact. The only stories which exist are about things which have already happened. There is no make-believe. The firing from his job naturally creates financial problems for Mark and when his landlord demands the payment of overdue rent, Mark finds himself in a bind. He doesn’t have enough money in his bank account to cover the full amount. In a spurt of inspiration, he lies. The world’s first. He is given the money needed, because everything said is believed. He now possesses a superpower. Whether he uses it for good or evil depends on his character.

If you lie well enough, you can eventually be like Hef.

If you lie well enough, you can eventually be like Hef.

When the film was first announced, it was immediately accused of being an inverse Liar, Liar, when in truth, it’s much more than that. The Invention of Lying is certainly a high-concept film, which if starring Jim Carrey would have turned into a wacky good time, but with Gervais at the helm, it’s interested in more than just delivering laughs. It tackles bigger issues at hand. A lot of the film’s humor stem from the unexpected bluntness of the way characters speak to each other. No secrecy is veiled or comment guarded. It’s an odd world indeed, but one devoid of much vibrancy. The strict adherence to truth makes for a bland artistic output and the film goes to show why most people prefer some sort of scripted fare over The History Channel. The film’s big idea covers the advent of religion and is perhaps its biggest argument for the necessity to create some kind of story, as opposed to sticking to complete fact.

Co-directed and co-written by Gervais and Matthew Robinson, the film visually offers little more than any standard romantic comedy and sadly has a third act which is mostly geared toward Mark getting the girl, but their intention for striving higher is what puts the film in a different category. They don’t put complete reliance on the hope that characters speaking “brutal truths” can carry an entire film of funny. Instead, they manage to insert the larger societal conundrums and prove a lot more can be done within a basic framework than most filmmakers are either unwilling or unable to do.

Gervais may still be a long way away from becoming the star in America that he is in Britain, but here he’s crafted another role tailor-made for his persona. Mark isn’t the nicest human being, but not a jerk, either. He’s more of a product of his non-lying environment. Gervais does surprise in a scene full of emotion, displaying a depth to the actor unseen to this point in his career. We shall continue to yearn for purely comedic performances, but this new turn gives Gervais the ability to delve deeper into a role, as opposed to skimming the surface. Jennifer Garner is given perhaps the most befitting role of her career in the film, as beautiful, but slightly dim-witted and superficial Anna. It’s nearly impossible to distinguish between the actress and the character and one wonders if this is more up her alley than her five-year stint on “Alias.”

The Invention of Lying, doesn’t ride high throughout, but given weight to a high-concept without relying on the initial idea to be the sole driving force of the film, makes it one of the more enjoyable movie-going experiences of the year. Hopefully Gervais can continue his ascent to stardom, and will undoubtedly do so if able to stay the course he’s currently on. He overtook the small screen and has Hollywood dominance eventually forthcoming. That’s the truth. Go ahead and run with it.

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Karl Pilkington’s ‘The Invention of Lying’ Review (Videos)

Before we get our chance to see and review Ricky Gervias’ new film, The Invention of Lying, for ourselves, we figured we’d pass along this review from Gervais’ third-hand man (after writing-producing partner Steven Merchant), Karl Pilkington. For those that don’t know, Pilkington is the dim-witted character (but completely real) Gervais discovered while recording a radio show in London back in 2001 with Merchant. Since then, they’ve done numerous radio shows and podcasts together and Gervais is able to share the “real life Homer Simpson” with the rest of the world.

Here, Pilkington lends his typical bizarre and moronic style to what’s supposed to be a review of his friend’s new film. As you can see in the embedded videos below, the man is certainly no A.O. Scott or Michael Phillips and sadly may not even be on par with Ben Lyons. Until we get to post our hopefully more insightful review of the film, enjoy Karl Pilkington on The Invention of Lying.

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‘The Invention of Lying’ Preview

Everyone has told a lie at some point in their life. It is part of our human nature to fudge the truth a little bit.  We are told when we are younger to never tell a lie (just like George Washington). As we get older we find out that it is not always possible to tell the truth all the time, and most have their own reasons for lying; some do it to impress others, some do it to protect someone’s feelings.  In certain situations, a lie can be a good thing but in others, one can be devastating.

What if we lived in a world that could only tell the truth? What if everyone went around telling everyone else exactly what they thought of them? Think of the impact it would make on all facets of our daily lives. Areas such as politics and sports would be forever changed. It would certainly make law enforcement’s job a lot easier.  No more polygraph tests to solve the crime, you would just have to ask if the person was guilty or not and they would spill the beans.

If Hef were young and fatter.

If Hef were younger and fatter.

This is the concept behind the quirky new comedy The Invention of Lying (the film’s original title was This Side of the Truth). The film is set on an Earth very different from our own. Invention‘s Earth is one where lying hasn’t been invented yet. Everyone only knows how to tell the truth. Ricky Gervais plays Mark, a guy who works in the entertainment industry as a writer. He works in an entertainment industry where unlike our own, people tell only fact-based stories. This all sounds pretty boring, until one day Mark creates the world’s first fib. After discovering the world’s first lie, Mark uses his new “power” for his own gain.

The film was written and directed by Ricky Gervais and Matthew Robinson.  Gervais rose to fame by creating the British version of “The Office,” and since then has both starred in or written several TV shows and movies. His most recent foray into acting on the big screen was last year’s Ghost Town, which I didn’t see, as it looked very middle of the road. But he was amazing as self-absorbed boss David Brent, on the UK version of “The Office” (his part is played by Steve Carrell in the U.S. adaptation). The Invention of Lying also stars Jonah Hill (Superbad), Jennifer Garner (“Alias”), Rob Lowe (“The West Wing”) and Tina Fey (Baby Mama).

Jason Bateman can elicit no other reaction.

Jason Bateman can elicit no other reaction.

This movie shares a lot in common with other high concept comedies such as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and the upcoming Cold Souls. All three of these movies take regular ideas which we take for granted and seemingly flip them on their head. Considering the box office for Ghost Town was more akin to that film’s title than the producers probably would have hoped, and Invention‘s plot, I’m not sure that it will be very profitable. Its gross will probably land close to the $27 million domestic total of Ghost Town. Just look at mindless fluff like Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, that’s where all the money is these days, not in small comedies such as this. I personally am looking forward to The Invention of Lying. It has a very talented cast of comedic actors, and a smart concept that looks to yield plenty of laughs. Count me in for this one.

The Invention of Lying opens September 25th.

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‘The Invention of Lying’ Int’l Trailer

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‘The Invention of Lying’ Trailer

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