Sunday, 4 September 2011


“And, after all, what is a lie? ‘Tis but the truth in masquerade.” - Lord Byron

At the weekend we watched the Ricky Gervais and Matthew Robinson 2009 film “The Invention of Lying”. We had avoided seeing this film as we do not particularly like Ricky Gervais and seeing this film was co-written and co-directed by him and was one in which he had the leading role, did not seem like a particularly attractive prospect. However, at the video store I overheard a couple of strangers talking about films as they were browsing the shelves and they got into a discussion about this film. Both of them were most complimentary of it, so I had to turn around (to my shame!) to see what they looked like. Although they spoke well and seemed quite cultured, I still wanted to see what they looked like before I finally decided on whether or not to get this film to watch. They looked OK, non-descript, average, middle-aged men, quite ordinary really - just like me! So I decided to get the movie to watch it…

Well, we were glad that I had taken a punt and got the film, as we were pleasantly surprised by it. Ricky Gervais and his plucked, shaped eyebrows aside, the film was a thought-provoking comedy with more than a touch of satire thrown in. It explored the concept of truth versus lies, honesty and integrity, the “black lie” versus the “white lie”, the importance of being honest with one’s self and what ultimate truths finally matter in our lives in the long run. It explored the power of different kinds of love and to what lengths we go to in order to make the people we love happy.

The film has simple premise as its starting point: It is set in a fictitious parallel universe earth where everything is the same, with the exception of a small but significant difference. Lying and fiction do not exist. Everyone tells the truth including just about anything they are thinking. Nobody can even consider lying as a possibility as they are compelled by their nature and the wiring of their brain to tell the truth. Mark Bellison (Ricky Gervais) is a bad screenwriter, about to be fired from his job at a film studio making documentaries (what else? There is no fiction). Mark is short, has a snub nose, is chunky and not handsome, but he loves Anna (Jennifer Garner) who is statuesque, attractive, successful and obviously out of his league (as she loses no time in telling him). When Mark loses his job he goes to the bank to withdraw his last $300, but on the spur of the moment and due to one misfiring neurone in his very special brain, he lies! As a result he withdraws $800 because the bank assumes their computers have made an error. As he sees the success his fib has given him, he begins his crusade of lying with amazing results that see him catapulted to success, fame and riches. However, it’s his “white lies” that have the most profound consequences that result in enormous social change. The questions remain, will Anna still reject him as an unsuitable match of poor genetic stock, will his lying get him in more hot water than he bargains for, and will the society that idolises him ultimately reject him?

Good supporting actor performances are given by Jonah Hill, Louis C.K., Jeffrey Tambor, Fionnula Flanagan and Rob Lowe (the last-mentioned giving a good self-mocking performance as the “good genetic stock” choice of Anna). The film is well-shot, but wins no cinematography awards, its music is unobtrusive and the comedy is restrained and subtle, while there are some scenes in which pathos and poignancy predominate, with Gervais handling those scenes sincerely and with aplomb (I am being objective here!). The topic of religion as covered by the film may be offensive to some hard-liner fundamentalists, but sociologically and psychologically, the film’s premise dictates quite logically the way that this topic is covered.

I would recommend this film to most open-minded people who watch a comedy not to belly laugh at slapstick, but who rather want a little more depth to the gags, which will more often than not cause one to smile or gently chuckle. The film has much to make one think about, but it’s not ‘philosophy 101’ or ‘psychology 201’. It is a very good B-grade comedy that although of not broad appeal, ticks quite a few boxes and is enjoyable and entertaining. It could quite possibly be a good film to show in year 12 and get the class to discuss, the teens discussing the themes raised with much gusto, I should think.


  1. I enjoyed this movie when it first came out, Nicholas and I remember being unexpectedly touched by it as well. I think that Ricky Gervais has done an excellent job of writing, directing and starring in it!

  2. I loved this movie but my friend who was with me got offended about the religious part in it.....