Ricky Gervais, the man who co-created the original "The Office," and "Extras" releases his newest film this weekend, The Invention of Lying. Gervais has made us laugh many times before, so how did he do this time? He Said/She Said tries to figure out how truly good (or bad) his new film is. Here's the plot: In a world where everyone tells the truth, a total loser (Gervais) discovers the idea of lying.
As always, we recommend seeing the film before reading, because plot spoilers, including the ending, are fair game to be discussed.
Now it's time for another round of He (Nick Allen) Said ... She (Morrow McLaughlin) Said.
I'm really torn on The Invention of Lying, because I feel like it's either biting and brilliant or lazy cutsie. That combination confuses the hell out of me. There were parts of the movie that were really funny, but then the prolonged montage comes along where Gervais is using his lies to enlighten everyone. No bueno.
And Jennifer Garner's character wasn't even a little likable, because she didn't come off as brutally honest--she came off as nasty and superficial. I've met a few women like that. I'd still watch it again just for the joy of seeing Gervais, but it let me down.
As much as I laughed during the first two acts, I have to agree with you that this was a bit of a let down. Interestingly enough, I left the film feeling a bit somber. Let's face it - the idea that all of religion may be a lie, and that people like Gervais can only get women like Garner is a bit depressing. In fact, the premise of the movie seemed to really be about white lies, and how the little things help the world go around. I can't tell if that idea itself is sad, but the bluntness the movie speaks about lack of honesty is well, kind of dizzying for a movie I just want to laugh at.
What I have loved about this project from the very beginning is its premise - a man discovers the ability to lie in a world of only truth. In fact, I'm sure Gervais knocked out the Hollywood suits when he whipped out this brief plot, which is an original sell at the least. But the way it is handled was a tad too serious, I thought. It was interesting that he found ways for lies to be positive, but at the same time these lies were too roughly reflective of our world. Is the film's world a perfect one because it doesn't have religion? Is our world then less perfect if people do believe in a higher being? I appreciate religious satire as much as the next guy, but this was difficult stuff.
And I didn't like how it resolved at a wedding. All that creativity, Ricky, and you end a movie at a wedding?! Were the airports closed?
As for J. Garner - well, I am not sure she is meant to be likable. She is stuck up and honest, as many people seem to be in that world. But much of her nastiness really came from her desire to have the perfect genetic match. The only thing I felt that was different about her than anyone in the film's world was that she was gorgeous. Now that's a truth.
You've managed to come close to articulating perfectly what was so odd about The Invention of Lying. The movie's opinion on lying is, to me, almost completely inscrutable: It's good...it's bad...it's good...it's disastrous...it's funny...it's necessary...it's better than blunt honesty...it's no replacement for honesty...it's okay in little doses...scream! What are you actually trying to say?
The concept is genius and Gervais is one of the funniest humans on the planet, but it was almost too complex for its own self. Reducing spiritualism and the power of myth to just lying is way too cynical even for me. And while the idea of someone trying to impart their morals onto the world population was really funny ("What constitutes a bad thing?"), the overriding statement about belief and humanity ends up being pretty bleak.
I'd have to say my absolute favorite part about The Invention of Lying was the phenomenal line up of cameos. Come on! Ed Norton? Philip Seymour Hoffman? Tina Fey? It was like Christmas came early this year.
Philip Seymour Hoffman's cameo was the best, especially because he seemed to fit right in with the crude Louis C.K. I'd have to say my favorite moment of the film was in the beginning, where we are introduced to Gervais' character, immediately portrayed as a loser, and what it's like for him to exist in a world of honesty. It was also Garner's best moment, though her overall purpose in the film dropped off from that point.
There are a very good amount of laughs in The Invention of Lying, but it's unfortunate the whole package couldn't be great. It's tough to recommend that this one is seen in theatres, especially with the other films out this week (Zombieland, Whip It, Capitalism: A Love Story, and in select markets, A Serious Man). I say if you're a follower of Ricky Gervais, this shouldn't disappoint too much as if you were a person simply looking for some mindless laughs.
I think we can both agree that this wasn't too bad, but it wasn't too great. I leaned towards the positive side more because I really did laugh at the many subtle "honesties" seen in the film. I gave it a 6/10, what would you give it?
I'm firmly between a 6 and a 7, actually...can I go with a 6.5 on this one? The weirdest part for me is that The Invention of Lying meant well--there isn't any meanness in it. If it had even a slight cruel streak, I would've hated it, but it approached its subject matter really innocently. So when it's inadvertently cynical, it doesn't feel like it was done intentionally. And its apparent ambiguity toward the morality of lying is forgivable because it's still well written. It's too bad neither of us are particularly religious, because I think we could use that perspective. What's it feel like to have one's beliefs reduced to such an insulting oversimplification? In the end I'd still recommend it to friends, but with the caveat to go in expecting inconsistencies.