The Invention of Lying
I was, and I'm sure you'll agree if you've seen the film as well, surprised. In fact it's fair to say that the film was a huge surprise for me and it really made me wonder why I hadn't given it the proper chance beforehand. I seriously misjudged Gervais, and I won't be making that mistake again.
I had heard a number of mixed reactions about The Invention of Lying before and after it was released. Everything from bad to mediocre, but I wasn't hearing a lot of really great comments. I was being led to believe that the film was okay, and Ricky Gervais had been lost in standard Hollywood fare. Now I know better.
However he's not completely self centred and he realises that he can do some good with a few small lies, and so he does, yet he never uses it on the woman that he wants to fall in love with, a woman well 0ut of his league that he wants to just fall in love with and for her to fall in love with him. Yet with her telling the truth and always believing what is said, there's no hope for them.
Then he tells a quiet little lie, a lie meant to ease someone's pain, but when he does others overhear and the lie spreads as truth and becomes something Earth shattering, the truth, religion.
So you'll have gathered by now that I liked the film, and that from the plot write-up I've given you there's so much more to it than the comedy that it's billed as. In fact it feels like something in the vein of It's a Wonderful Life, now don't get excited, I'm not saying that the film is as good as that, but the level of reality and light heartedness in it does beg comparison.
Here there's a strong comic element that does, rather quickly, turn much darker with the addition of the storyline of the mother, and yet even as it's turning darker it doesn't lose that element of comedy, it's always there.
Then there's another turn later in the story that delivers the main moral of the tale, that religion is a lie and people need to believe in themselves and make their own decisions. This seems a gulf away from the plot that the film was sold on, and how expectations would expect a Ricky Gervais film to play out.
The film is well written, it's clever, witty, very insightful, and carries some huge and relevant messages for everyone, and that balance of comedy and serious message sits well throughout. It's not a small tip either way, adhering to the usual Hollywood rules, the film takes the serious message quite far, but always manages to bring out the comic element however serious the message has become.
That was something I was scared of, that perhaps Ricky Gervais and Matthew Robinson would write it too far into the comedy side and miss out anything deeper, and at the same time give us more of that Gervais character we already know and have maybe seen just a little too much. However they've been much more clever than that. They've pushed Hollywood and delivered a message into the film that would see most halted before the script stage, they've also toned the usual comedy down and made something with a lot more heart, depth, and subtlety.
It manages to do something so many films fail to, it delivers the happy and uplifting moments of the film without falling into the realm of being twee, contrived, or just the same as everything else.
I loved the way the story developed, and when some of the more Hollywood moments did hit I didn't feel embarrassed or wrong about enjoying them. It's a bit like chocolate, it wasn't a huge slab which made me feel sick by the end, it was small bites in between savoury, and when that final sweet taste hit at the end of the meal it topped it off and I enjoyed the sweetness.
Ricky Gervais is good too, and that says a lot coming from me. I wasn't really looking forward to his performance, expecting something akin to his self-assured, self-obsessed, arrogant character he so often plays. However they've not only toned the character back, but they've managed to make him human and accessible, and it's quite easy to connect with him and feel sympathy for him. At times it almost felt as though we were watching the real Gervais.
The picture is strong, and as always with the iTouch I'm surprised at how crisp and clear it is, as well as how it handles darkness levels. Playing back various Internet formats on the computer is fine, on the PlayStation 3 I find them far too dark, and when they play on the Xbox 360 they are often a little too sharp and contrast high. Yet on the iTouch the picture, with a good film, is nigh on perfectly calibrated. That's just the case in this film.
Again the iTouch only supplies stereo, however I'm beginning to think that an Apple TV might be a strong investment to see the film on a big screen and with full digital 5.1 sound. Here though it's only stereo, but it still surprises me how immersed I get in the film and how sound does have a slight movement within stereo embedded earplugs.
Once again this was another strong delivery of a film on iTouch, and while the film itself didn't appeal to me in the cinema, when I was given it to review I had a huge surprise, it was really good.
I do think that the idea of the world is flawed though, it is much less about telling the truth and more about just saying whatever is on your mind. Still some of the set-ups around the idea are really well done and it doesn't follow the standard Hollywood route. There are plenty of laughs and it makes for an enjoyable and satisfying film.
More than that it's surprisingly insightful, emotionally engaging, and touching, and some strong writing deliver a feel good film that has some strong things to say about the way we live our lives, or even the way we don't.
Give The Invention of Lying a chance, it's got a lot more to say than most films, and you'll laugh through some darker and serious moments too.
I never considered the possibility of liking a Ricky Gervais film, and yet I like this film, I enjoyed his performance, and I took to his character. Now I'm looking forward to the next one.