Thursday, December 2, 2010

Invention of Lying

Movie Review : The Invention of Lying
Directors: Ricky Gervais, Matthew Robinson
Genre : Comedy
Released : October 2009
Starring : Ricky Gervais, Jenifer Garner, Rob Lowe
My Rating : 6 out of 10

"The Invention Of Lying" is a very rare comedy that can make you ponder as much as it can make you laugh.

They idea is innovative. Imagine a world where no one ever lies - because they simply cannot ! It's not a matter of choice for the people in this alternative universe - they just speak the truth. All the time. Even when it's the harshest thing to say.

Mark (Ricky Gervais) is a loser who works in a movie producing company. We meet him as he is going on a blind date with an attractive woman Anna (Jennifer Garner). First look, and she announces to him that he is not good enough for her. But out of politeness they go to a restaurant where the waiter tells him that she is way out of his league. This is how people talk to each other in the movie. Not in an insulting tone, but politely stating things as they are. It's a simple and cruel world.  And it's hilarious.

Mark discovers by accident that he can lie - and things get very interesting. Instead of using that ability to lie for his own petty benefits, he starts using it to comfort people. What an idea ! Saying things that are not true can help make someone feel better. Note that there is no such words as "lying" or "truth" in their vocabulary. And there is no word for "God" either.

That's where the movie transcends itself from being just a comedy. It's a funny take alright - but the viewer cannot escape the questions that are being posed in an indirect way. The entire notion of Mark's "Man in the sky", relies on just make-believe statements in order to make people feel better.

That's what I mean when I say, the movie forces you to ponder as much as it can make you laugh. Is lying all that bad if it makes you feel better ? Is that the basis of all religions ? If these unverifiable beliefs actually help people live their life, is that a justification enough for spreading them ? Of course, a comedy movie cannot be expected to answer those questions - these debates have been going on ever since humans developed an ability to introspect. I prefer these subtle questions far more than the extravagant philosophical discussions spawned by the "Matrix" trilogy.

This turns out to be a double edged sword. As much as it helps the movie rise to a different level, it also makes it a bit unwieldy. The comedy sputters and the movie gets very unfocused in the end.

Nevertheless, Ricky Gervais and Jennifer Garner, both make it work. Their acting is spot on. I recommend this movie - it's short, funny and thought provoking. It's not for kids.

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