Some thoughts on Matthew Robinson and Ricky Gervais' new film, The Invention of Lying, which screened on Wednesday, September 24th at the Oxford Theatre, Halifax, as part of the 29th Atlantic Film Festival:
So, you've probably seen the ads; Mark Bellison, an acknowledged loser, lives in a world not unlike our own, except on this particular Earth, everyone tells the truth. There's no such thing as the word "truth" or the word "lie," since these concepts don't really exist. Through some sort of genetic freak, Mark discovers that he is capable of "saying what isn't," and soon profits from it. But introducing Mark's world to lying has ramifications he couldn't dream of...
I'm a big Ricky Gervais fan. I think The Office and Extras are two of the best comedies to be on TV in quite some time. The Invention of Lying, while quite funny, just isn't on par with those.
Obviously the main source of humor, at the beginning of the film, is the radical honesty of the film's characters. While it's pretty funny to hear what people think, spoken plainly, it gets a little tedious after a while, since seemingly 80% of what qualifies as "the truth" is just people telling Mark that he's fat and a loser, which can only illicit chuckles for so long. After Mark invents lying, much of the humor shifts to laughing at how anyone would believe what Mark says (but there's still lots of insults thrown at Mark for good measure).
Fortunately, before things start to drag, the film takes a pretty dramatic shift, one which isn't spoiled by the preview, so I won't give it away. Let's just say that the film explores the connection between lies and fiction, in Mark's job in the film industry (films are just people reading non-fiction scripts based on history). From there, the film moves on to the invention of some more important fictions.
Gervais plays the character he's famous for (well, the only character who isn't specifically David Brent). Jennifer Garner is, well, Jennifer Garner. To help things along, you get half a dozen or so cameos, which I'm sure you could spoil for yourself if you went to IMDB, but I'd caution against it. Part of the fun was being surprised when a certain actor popped up.
It's tempting to reveal some of the best gags, but I won't. I will say that some of the funniest stuff comes from the titles of things, which tend to be a lot more literal than in our world.
The Invention of Lying is good fun, but I wish that Gervais had explored the concept of the lie-free world a bit more. For instance, at one point Mark is called a "fag," and all I could think of is how there'd be no such thing as "the closet" in the film's world. No cheating on your spouse or significant other, either--at least, not without coming clean about it. And would the stock market still work without deception? Howabout politics? There was a lot of stuff that Gervais could have examined, but I suppose he wanted to keep the film simple.