31 October 2009

The Invention of Lying

The Invention of Lying

You don’t realize how important lies are until you can’t tell them. I’m not talking about deceitful, hurtful lies that can ruin relationships and lives, but the small fibs and half-truths that we all use—often unconsciously—to brighten each other’s days.

The Invention of Lying takes place in a world very much like our own, except that no one has ever told a lie. Instead, everyone always says exactly what they’re thinking, no matter how embarrassing or mean it might be. Without the ability to lie, there is no imagination, no fiction. Lecture Films, where Mark Bellison (Ricky Gervais) is a screenwriter, produces movies featuring a single actor reading stories from history, such as Napoleon 1812-1813 and The Invention of the Fork.

When Mark suddenly gains the ability to say things that are not (there’s no word for it), he first uses it to get rent money. Then he sees it as a gift and uses it to help others find happiness and, in the case of a suicidal neighbor (Jonah Hill), provide reasons to live. Unexpected attention comes his way when he comforts his dying mother (Fionnula Flanagan) by making up a story about a glorious afterlife, with mansions and all of your loved ones.

The story takes a little bit of a serious turn when Mark becomes sort of a prophet, the only person who can communicate with the “man in the sky” who controls everything and starts to lose the love of his life (Jennifer Garner) to a rival screenwriter (Rob Lowe). Even then, it has enough of Gervais’ signature awkward brand of comedy to keep things interesting.

For Gervais, who co-directed and co-wrote the screenplay with Matthew Robinson, this combines with last year’s Ghost Town for a formidable one-two punch. I hope this one finds more of an audience because Gervais is one of the few unique voices in the movies today.

Grade: B

(Rated PG-13 for language including some sexual material and a drug reference. 99 minutes.)

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