The Invention of Lying (2009) – Film Review
Directors: Ricky Gervais & Matthew Robinson
Cast: Ricky Gervias, Jennifer Garner, Rob Lowe
by Matt Callard
Set in a parallel universe where everyone must tell the truth at all times, Mark Bellison (Ricky Gervais) discovers he’s the only person in this world who can lie.
In the hands of a writer with less skill or philosophical nous than Ricky Gervais, this high-concept premise in The Invention of Lying could be a disaster.
It could, for example, be a simple comedy vehicle for Jim Carrey to unleash another two hours of pratfalls, funny faces and death-defying embarrassment, but once Gervais gets some of the more obvious, yet admittedly irresistible, gags out of the way this boisterous and heartfelt comedy takes all sorts of interesting twists and turns. It eventually arrives – quite subversively – at one of Gervais’s favourite brickbats: religion.
Facing his dying mother, he finds his lies possess the power to offer her hope. To offer her the belief that she will not cease to exist when she dies. To believe that she will, in fact, go to a better place. It’s an audacious segment, a terrific dilemma. It’s easily the film’s highlight and it immediately places The Invention of Lying right next to Life of Brian in the rarely-entered comedic theology Hall of Fame.
After that, it drifts somewhat disappointingly to an over-sentimental denouement, but Gervais, at least, shows Hollywood that he is no Brit-com one hit wonder.