Sunday, 7 February 2010

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - The Invention Of Lying

Ok, here we go, post-tirades and what have you, and now for a change, I've actually seen a movie that I have enjoyed over the past couple of weeks, The Invention Of Lying, about which in due course, but here's a little context. Now, The Invention Of Lying is most notable for being the theatrical debut film of English comedian Ricky Gervais. Gervais, for those of you who have been living under a rock for the past decade, has only been perhaps the most notable comedian to come out of Britain for a good while. With The Office, Extras, Flanamils and a number of stand-up shows since under his belt, Gervais is unquestionably the giant in this generation's British comedy. Also, I won't lie, I'm a big fan of the guy. His style of comedy is very subtle, but also has a delicate balance between a comic situation and a real situation. In The Invention Of Lying, Gervais plays Mark Bellison, a man who is down on his luck, living in an alternate reality where mankind has not discovered how to lie. As such, after hitting numerous dead ends (flunking his date with Anna, played by Jennifer Garner, losing his job et al), he stumbles upon the concept of lying, and being the only person who knows how to do so, begins to go somewhere with his life. Ricky Gervais plays the role of Mark very well, injecting his usual brand of subtle nuances to his character, whilst also maintaining a very human character. His portrayal of the character over the course of the film as he becomes rich and famous is very well done. The evolution is not extravagant or over-the-top, instead showing someone who is still incredulous at the idea that no one else is able to grasp the concept of lying. Rob Lowe is also very good in a supporting role as Mark's rival in screenwriting, Brad Kessler. Once again, playing off of Gervais, Lowe also plays a character that is not over-the-top, and in his portrayal of someone who is really in essence a jerk, comes across as someone that any one of us could know. The script in itself is also solid. There are scenes of absolute comic brilliance, due in part to Gervais' sitcom experience. Scenes such as the confrontation between Mark and Kessler upon Mark losing his job and Mark's inadverted invention of religion come to mind. In these scenes, the religion sequence being genuinely hilariously awkward, the film is at its best, giving us some genuinely original gags while not straying away from the original concept. Once again, I'm sorry if it sounds like I'm gushing, but Gervais' efficient direction also must be complimented. While himself a notorious corpser and prankster on-set, Gervais nonetheless seems to get the job done really well and in a manner that would suggest that he has a budding feature film career. The various cameos in the film by Edward Norton, Philip Seymour Hoffman and the team of Stephen Merchant and Shaun Williamson (Barry from Eastenders!) are incorporated very well, bringing to mind the intelligent use of cameos in Anchorman. On a final note on the positives, composer Tim Atack delivers a very nice and lovely score. Yes, it's orchestral I know, nonetheless it is utilised really well throughout the film and is not your typical clichéd orchestral score. Furthermore, it does not interfere with the film whatsoever, but instead complements what goes on onscreen, raising the dramatic and comedic emotions. However, while certainly being a very enjoyable film, there are a number of flaws that come with it. Whilst there are moments of brilliance in the script, and Gervais is certainly an excellent dialogue writer, the romantic subplot does not come across as overly convincing to me. For a film which relies much on the strength of originality, the romance subplot comes across as clichéd and not very well thought out. Also, it does not give Jennifer Garner much room to use her acting skills, instead just serving as filler for much of her time in the film. Her character comes across as more of a plot device than a believable and human character as a result. The other main problem with the film, and I am in firm agreement with Mark Kermode on this one, is that the strength of the concept is not strong enough. Perhaps if it was re-written or done slightly differently it would come across better, but The Invention Of Lying's concept, which is key to the humour of the film, seems more appropriate for a short film, an episode of a TV series or a one-off TV special. As such, the concept seems like it has been stretched out and overly milked, coming across as dry and dull by the end of the film. This is rather unfortunate, as it undermines the original ideas of the film, and instead there are many clichéd scenes to be seen as filler and window dressing. Perhaps if the films editor Chris Gill were to piece the film together better it would work better a whole. However, it just seems as though he has patched together whatever has been shot, and as a result of a lack of cutting the film down so that it is tight and stronger, the concept comes across as bloated and unfulfilling. Nevertheless, Ricky Gervais' feature directorial debut is far better than many are giving it credit. Some people I think just don’t get Ricky Gervais’ style of comedy, and at times would probably alienate a more populist audience, but screw Empire for giving it a one out of five review. You’re entitled to your opinions, I just believe that you are seriously wrong in this case. You seem to have been expecting another comedy masterpiece, I mean, give the guy a break. I found the film to be very human, charming and quite enjoyable, Ricky Gervais serving out the auteur duties very well, and I think that this shows good signs for better films in the future of Gervais.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 7.0/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Quite pleased

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