Saturday, October 10, 2009

REVIEW: The Invention of Lying

The Invention of Lying left me laughing, confused and even a little perturbed – and I imagine that's just the way Ricky Gervais likes it.

The movie's just not the way I like it – not completely, anyway.

Gervais, who co-wrote and co-directed,  presents a world where no one tells a lie. Well, actually, that's a bit of a misnomer – it's not only that people don't tell lies – it's that they're compulsive truth-tellers. There is absolutely no filter between their mouths and their brains. When Gervais picks up Jennifer Garner for a first date, she opens the door and cheerily announces: "I was masturbating."

Yes, it's a brutally honest world – one where the nursing home is called "A Sad Place for Hopeless Old People," and where people have no hesitation calling a baby ugly.

Then, one day, Gervais discovers the ability to bend and even break the truth. He tells one woman, "The world is going to end unless we have sex right now," and the woman, not knowing such a thing as a falsehood, buys it.

Then the plot really thickens when Gervais' mother is on her deathbed, afraid of what is coming. Unable to bear the sight of his  mother in pain, Gervais makes up a story about "a man in the sky" and a happy place you go after you die where everyone you love lives in a mansion. Gervais' revelation takes the populace by storm, and he finds himself at the center of unwanted attention. (In real life, Gervais is an atheist.)

Normally, I don't let such things bother me. I'm a practicing Catholic, but I don't go around telling people how they should behave or what they should believe. They go their way, I go mine. Yet I have to admit, that the idea of heaven as "lie" was that left me unsettled. For my taste, Gervais made his point a little too stridently.

And yet, I do not dismiss the movie out of hand, as some people do. It has its flaws – the tone is very uneven, and Gervais his bitten off a bit more than he can chew. That said, I admired and laughed at much of what Gervais had to say point about the lack of critical thinking, and about how shallow people can be, especially when they are in large groups. And there is much to be said for someone who is trying to tell us, "Don't just consider surfaces and what you see on the outside -  the inside is where the real value is." As a disabled person, I wish  people would look a little deeper more often myself.

So I can only be honest when I say I admired The Invention of Lying – even if some of it made my skin crawl. But then again, that's what Gervais does, isn't it?


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