Imagine a world where no one has ever told a lie. Not even to sell a product, tell an interesting story or protect someone’s feelings. Now add to that a complete lack of verbal restraint about subjects that aren’t seemly to discuss in public. That is the premise of the movie “The Invention of Lying.”
In this world, people are as blunt as a sledgehammer to the face. Some of it is shocking and disturbing, but the majority of it is brilliant comedic fodder for Ricky Gervais’ (“Ghost Town”) talents.
Gervais co-wrote and co-directed the film with newcomer Matthew Robinson, so it comes as no surprise that this script perfectly fits his style of humor.
Gervais plays Mark Bellison, a man who discovers the mysterious power of lying in a world where no such thing exists. His first lie is used to solve a financial problem. Then he attempts to use lying for selfish gains, only to discover that it is not in his character to do so. Subsequently he begins to use lying to make people happier.
The movie borders on the controversial when he lies to ease his dying mother’s fears and ends up creating the afterlife and God. Does the film go so far as to say that God is a lie? No. That is not the point. It is only a comedic ruse to promote Gervais’ character to an almost god-like status himself, and it makes for a funny interlude.
Yet at the heart of every comedy there is a seed of sadness and a nugget of truth. This is the rule comedians as far back as Charlie Chaplin have known and played upon. Most comedies these days, however, tend to ignore this fact in favor of cheap laughs. This is not the case with “The Invention of Lying.”
Instead, this movie hits reality on the head a couple of times when it makes jokes about the elderly, work place politics and even love. And it is here, through the romance between Bellison and Anna McDoogles (Jennifer Garner, “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past”), that the heart of the film blossoms into a beautiful little tale that will tug at viewers’ heartstrings and long be remembered.
Unfortunately, “The Invention of Lying” didn’t get a lot of publicity. This film is perhaps one of the most original things on the screen at the moment and it will be completely bypassed with the subpar headliners of the day. It is not a movie that one can easily predict. But it is not to be missed.