The Invention of Lying is the funniest movie about our society since Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times. Oh yeah, that would be a lie. I was more excited to see this new Ricky Gervais film than any other film in a long time, but at one point I wanted to walk out because of boredom, and later my date told me she had gone to sleep. Unfortunately, I’m talking here like the people who live in this fantasy world where lying didn’t exist until Mark Bellison needs to pay his rent.
Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t see The Invention of Lying, it is quite clever and reasonably funny, but while watching this movie I really wanted it to be another It’s A Wonderful Life, it had that kind of potential. The setup, of a world untainted by lies, fiction or any other kind of make-believe, including religion, is a brilliant concept, but ultimately, the results feel like a rough draft hacked out by Saturday Night Live writers.
The weak writing was obvious early on when Ricky Gervais’ character Mark, walked down the street whispering lies to people and changing their lives. If the writing was great we would have heard the lies he told and admired their brilliance. Instead we just had to take the smiles on people’s face as our proof. The best exploitation of the concept was how movies were made in this world without lying – because in this alternative reality people went to see films with a man in a chair reading historical essays – even historical dramas would be lies. Now that’s very astute when you think about it. The trouble is the writers didn’t take this bit of speculative vision and stretch it over their entire make-believe world.
I’m sure my God fearing friends will wonder why a world without lying isn’t heaven. The writers failed when they assumed a lie free world would have the same history as our world. No, I don’t think honesty would have created a utopian ideal, but the world without lying had no religion until Ricky Bellison invents it – so that timeline would have had fewer wars, or much different wars to shape its history. Their present was too close to ours to be believable if lies never existed.
This movie’s premise, although, is perfect for exploring philosophical fantasies. The film left me thinking the writers wanted us to believe that we need lies to make us happy, and thus lying is beneficial, but Mark ultimately won’t lie to achieve his personal desires, such as scoring with Anna McDoogles, played by Jennifer Garner. Time and again in the show we are told that Mark is fat and has a funny nose and that Anna wants beautiful children. All Mark had to do was tell her that their genes blended together would produce gorgeous brats and they would have been married, but he didn’t. Even in a movie about lying, truth is sold as the best policy.
If this movie had been more sophisticated, Mark would have found a funny way to convince everyone that lying was wrong, and undid all the changes he brought to his world. Which is better, to die happily and calmly with a lie, or face death with the truth? If you see the movie you can answer that question. For this movie to achieve the greatness I thought it could have achieved emotionally, only the Ricky Gervais character should have seen the secret of lying and before the end of the film he would have experience a number of lessons to convince him to put lying back in Pandora’s Box. He should have discovered that telling the truth sometimes takes kindness or empathy, or at least a little tack.
I know I’m sounding like Pollyanna, and I’m just mincing words about a silly little film that will soon be forgotten, but I actually think this flick accidently brings up an important philosophical subject, because if we look at it inversely we realize how many lies we live with in our world. What would our reality be like without the lie about the man in the sky and all the related ones, like those convincing us about the good place and the bad place we can go to after death. What if the filmmakers made a movie called The Invention of Honesty.
JWH – 10/9/9