It’s true: ‘The Invention of Lying’ is clever and funny
Brandy Cerne | Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Imagine a world where no one is able to lie. People unquestioningly believe everything everyone says, because it must be true. To have unflinching trust in everyone, to never wonder what people are really thinking – that sounds pretty nice, right?
As shown in “The Invention of Lying,” sometimes we need those little lies to help us get through the day.
Ricky Gervais is the co-writer, co-director and star of the comedy in the role of screenwriter Mark Bellison. Everyone believes Mark is a fat, short loser, and because they cannot lie, they let him know that almost every time they see him. Mark is alone in his 40s and about to be fired and homeless, so his life is in a downward spiral when he discovers that he has told the world’s first lie.
Determined that lying is his ticket out of loserville, Mark attempts to manipulate his life to make it better. He first starts with getting his job back. The only movies in this truthful on-screen world are lecture films, because fiction does not exist. Thus, Mark fabricates an outlandish story and claims it is newly discovered history. Just like that, his career booms.
Mark’s main focus though, is his attempt to win over beautiful, out-of-his-league Anna (Jennifer Garner). Since he is no longer restricted to telling the truth about his mediocre life, he impresses her with heroic stories. They do actually discover they have much in common, but Anna cannot get past Mark’s lack of good looks.
“The Invention of Lying” presents a number of philosophical concepts, which was not to be expected from watching the trailer. The notions of heaven, hell and the existence of God are all made up by Mark in the film. This could be offensive to those who are religious, as the film suggests that the core Christian concepts are lies. It does make the audience member confront their own beliefs: Which ones do they believe to be actually true and which ones do they choose to believe for comfort’s sake?
Aside from religious debate, the film also raises the question of whether total honesty is a good thing or not. Most characters were much unhappier before Mark told them small untruths to make them feel better. The film’s message seems to be that lying does not necessarily solve problems, but can help somewhat so that people are not consistently rude to each other.
“The Invention of Lying” is incredibly similar to 2008’s “Ghost Town,” also starring Gervais. Both films are good but not great, semi-romantic comedies that star Gervais as a schlubby guy who tries to do good in the world once he develops a special characteristic, whether it be seeing ghosts or being able to lie.
“The Invention of Lying” is very funny in its first act, as it explores the shockingly true but hilarious things people would say to each other if complete honesty was the only way. However, as it sinks into the romantic plot between Anna and Mark, the film loses its satiric edge and becomes pleasant but conventional. The film would be better if it had stuck with exploring its concept to the fullest in a comedic way. However, that is not to say it is a bad movie.
The idea of a world where no one lies is fresh and interesting, and is used in quite amusing ways in many parts, such as the fake Coke and Pepsi ads. The film has a great supporting cast, including appearances by Tina Fey, Jonah Hill, Jason Bateman, Edward Norton and many others.
“The Invention of Lying” is a high-concept comedy that could use a few tweaks, but overall has an amusing and original storyline.