The Invention of Lying
Directed by Ricky Gervais and Matthew Robinson
Some people never get over what happened to them as children and for comedian, writer and actor Ricky Gervais (The Office, Extras) it was evidently being picked on as the “fat kid with a snub nose”.
Gervais co-wrote, co-directed and stars in The Invention of Lying but if his diehard fans are expecting the cringe-inducing confrontational humour of The Office, they’re going to be disappointed.
This is a considered and well-written movie with a lot to say about how society judges people on their appearance, ambition and fulfilment and the nature of honesty.
I enjoyed this movie a great deal but I didn’t find it particularly funny, apart from the central premise that humans always tell the truth (somehow this translates to also saying every single facile comment that wanders into their brains but I suppose as anyone’s who’s ever visited Facebook can attest that part isn’t too unbelievable).
Gervais plays an unhappy screen writer who scours the 13th century for script ideas (since he can’t make stuff up) who is about to get fired and whose mother is on the verge of death. In a desperate moment he discovers he has the ability to say things that aren’t true.
Gervais is very much flavour of the moment in Hollywood and as well as allowing him the freedom to write what he wants, being everyone’s favourite comedian means he also had access to an amazing stellar cast.
Rob Lowe is predictably sleazy and horrible as the genetically blessed competition; Jeffrey Tambor fumbles admirably as the self-doubting movie exec; Tina Fey (Saturday Night Live, and Sarah Palin moose hunter impersonator) gives a typically funny performance as Gervais’ assistant and there are cameos by Edward Norton, Philip Seymour Hoffman and other A-list actors.
Jennifer Garner gives an alternatively smiley and furrowed showing as the extremely good-looking and harried love interest trying to overcome her conditioning and trust her instincts.
The Invention of Lying is a thought-provoking and interesting movie; it wouldn’t hold up as a philosophical treatise on the nature of truth but it’s not supposed to be Bertrand Russell. Like Shallow Hal this movie reminds us of the perils of superficiality and if Gervais wants to make a point about judging, then good on him.