October 4, 2009

The Invention of Lying - 2009

Directors: Ricky Gervais & Matthew Robinson
Writers: Ricky Gervais & Matthew Robinson
Starring: Ricky Gervais, Jennifer Garner, Rob Lowe, Louis C.K.

In an alternate reality where the human race never develops the capability to lie, Mark Bellison (Gervais) is having a terrible life. He can't go on a successful date, gets fired from his job, gets evicted...he's doing better than his neighbor (Jonah Hill) that routinely attempts suicide, but not by much. One day, thanks to something never quite explained, he's able to say "something that isn't." Since every other human knows nothing but blunt honesty (people go out of the way to tell the whole truth at times), he's able to almost seamlessly make his life the way he's always dreamed. But when his mother dies, and he creates the idea of heaven to soothe her fears, he finds himself beholden to a crowd of followers at his doorstep, eager to hear what else he knows about after we die, and how he knows it.

Yet another great film. Gervais and Robinson have crafted the richest of environments, with nothing forgotten: the universality of truth is immediately apparently in everything from advertising (Coke is essentially brown sugar water that causes obesity) to film (reduced to a single man discussing a historical event to the camera), and above all, signs:
  • "a sad place for hopeless old people"
  • "a cheap motel for intercourse with near strangers"
  • "a quiet place to think about the man in the sky"
Much like Funny People, this film has a seemingly endless cavalcade of cameos (although the actors don't portray themselves this time): Christopher Guest, Tina Fey, Jeffrey Tambor, John Hodgman, Jason Bateman, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Edward Norton, just to name a few. While they are only onscreen for a moment or two, each is more enjoyable than the last, especially Norton's appearance as a mustachioed police officer. The main actors do a bang-up job as well; Gervais actually cries, and Garner's Gervais impression is knee-slappingly funny. Call it a religious satire, or just a take on the horrors of total honesty, or anything else, but it's still a great watch.

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