The newest comedy from esteemed British comic Ricky Gervais is a high concept joke stretched out over the course of an hour and a half. The film has some fine moments, but it cannot decide if it is a biting satire or a rollicking rom-com.
Imagine a world where lying and deceit have never been thought of, if you cheated on a test, if asked you would be obligated to tell the truth. It is a concept so foreign to us, because when you really think about it, we lie quite a bit in our daily lives. We lie to get ahead in life, to spare another human beings feelings, and really sometimes just for the fun of it. There are no actors, because actors are just people who lie to an audience. Instead in this universe, there are screenwriters who write about interesting (or not so interesting) events of the past. Our main character Mark Bellison is one of previously mentioned screenwriters. Mark is down on his luck, he has been told he is most likely getting fired, his mother is dying, and the date he goes on when we first meet him did not go as well as his hopes. Things all change for Mark when he tells this world’s first lie. If no one had ever lied before, there would be no such thing as distrust, and so everyone takes his word to be gospel (literally). Things get a little convoluted for Mark when he tells what should be an innocent lie to help his dying mother, and unwittingly creates the worlds first religion.
This is a film that suffers from a multiple personality disorder, and even though it can’t decide on what it wants to be, it doesn’t stop it from being enjoyable. The satire in the film is its biggest saving grace. Showing us how different our world could be if everyone told the truth. It wouldn’t stop us from being jerks, we’d just be more honest about our dislike for our fellow man. Industries like film and advertising are so unlike what we have now, you wonder why they would even exist. You don’t want to over think it too much, otherwise the concept starts falling a bit apart. On the surface though, the idea and the execution are top notch.
The other half of the film is watching the painful lack of chemistry between Ricky Gervais and Jennifer Gardner. When she bluntly admits that while they maybe emotionally compatible, but not physically you almost want to nod in agreement. Just because lying doesn’t exist, vanity does. As charming as Gervais is, you never really see the romantic chemistry between him and his costar. If Gervais is charming and affable, Gardner is uptight and boring. It may not be entirely her fault, the character as written is pretty uptight and boring, telling the truth all the time could be detrimental to your enjoyment of life apparently. As much as we decry deceit and lying in this world, it is amazing just how boring it would be without it.
The Invention of Lying suffers from an uneven pace, and ideas that feel pushed to their furthest limit. It is a good comedy, although some might be offended by its opinion on religion. You’ll laugh out loud at many of the parts (watch out for the sign on the retirement community), and you’ll revel in the amount of A-List cameos. Just don’t expected to have your world changed.