Droid wants to live in a world without ‘The Invention of Lying’
‘The Invention of Lying’ has a premise packed with such comic potential that, as you watch it meander aimlessly along, you wonder how it could’ve gone so wrong.
Gervais stars as Mark Bellison, who inhabits an alternate universe where mankind hasn’t developed the ability to lie. There is only truth in this universe. There isn’t even a word for something that isn’t true. It just is or isn’t.
The movie begins with Bellison on a first date with Anna (Jennifer Garner), who promptly informs him that although he seems nice, she finds him unattractive, not successful enough and an unsuitable genetic match for procreation. He takes this news as a given. He’s used to these types of comments in a world where no one tells a lie.
Bellison is a screenwriter for Lecture Films, who produce films that feature a narrator looking into camera and telling the story of a historical event. Because there’s no lying, there’s no fiction. I wondered why the films weren’t more like historical recreations like the films ‘Gettysburg’, ‘Amadeus’, or ‘The Patriot’ (that last one’s a joke by the way). But then I applied logic and realised that it would require actors, and that the people in this world are unable to pretend to be anything but themselves.
Co-writer/co-director pair Ricky Gervais and Matthew Robinson have applied strict logic to every aspect of this world, which makes you appreciate it on an intellectual level, but the world is so dour and unappealing, both visually and emotionally, that we don’t embrace the characters or the story.
Bellison is fired from Lecture Films because he’s responsible for writing the biggest box office bomb of all time, called The Black Plague. No matter that it doesn’t appear that these films would cost anything to make, since it’s a man sitting on a chair reading out loud, but that’s beside the point. It’s not his fault, he claims. The 1300’s is the worst century to have, because nothing happened.
Bellison owes $800 rent, but only has $300 in his account. At the bank something triggers in his brain. He asks for $800. The bank teller assumes it must be a system error, and gives him the money. Bellisons world has changed. He can lie.
This is where the film should really take off. Remember Groundhog Day, and the first scenes where Bill Murray discovers that he’s living that same day over and over again? There is a real sense of panic and desperation in those scenes. Everything he knows is crashing down around him. Murray’s manic energy is hilarious and more importantly, a believable reaction to an extreme situation. When Bellison discovers that he can lie, something that no one else in history has ever done, how does he react? He wanders over to a bar to discuss it with the bartender and his alcoholic mate. There’s no sense of amazement or fear of his new ability. It’s like discovering one day that you can read peoples minds, and thinking “Oh, that’s handy. I wonder what’s on TV.”
The blame must fall on Gervais and Robinson. Each scene flickers with potential, but never takes off. The film plays as an Alexander Payne-esque dramedy, when it should’ve been played more for laughs.
The performances lack energy. Gervais plays the character as cheerless and miserable, and it sucks any enjoyment from the film. Once he discovers the ability to lie, he uses it for personal gain in the hope that money and success will make him happy, and that Anna will consider him a more suitable “genetic match”. But the characters and the world they inhabit are so unlikable that you just don’t care.
The only difference between the films reality and ours is the ability to lie. So why does everyone blurt things out unprovoked like they have Tourette’s? A restaurant host says “I’m intimidated by you” when greeting Garner. A waiter says “I took a sip from your drink” and “She’s out of your league”. Bellisons secretary says “I’m overqualified” and “I loathe you”. I understand that these people think these things and can’t lie, but they must have the ability to control the things they say. They aren’t just mouthpieces for every thought that passes through their brain. The characters don’t behave like normal human beings would (with the inability to lie), and are nearly all unpleasant.
There’s also number of strange cameos in the film that prove distracting. It’s as if they missed the ‘Extras’ boat, and were desperate to associate themselves with Gervais’ next project.
The more I think about this film, the more disappointed I am. I had high hopes due to the hilarious ‘Extras’ and ‘The Office’, as well as the mildly entertaining ‘Ghost Town’. It’s definitely a missed opportunity, and it proves to be Gervais’ first failure.
If you want to see this kind of film done properly, watch ‘Groundhog Day’ again.
About Judge DroidIn between refining my procrastination skills I talk a lot of shit about movies and such.
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