The Invention of Lying

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Deal Score0
It’s official: Ricky Gervais is a genius. He may not have cured cancer or discovered a new branch of mathematics, but having created The Office, Extras, and now The Invention of Lying has secured him a place in the history of comedy. The Invention of Lying imagines a world in which everyone unfailingly tells the truth; they don’t even know what fiction is. Every thought, however humiliating or harsh, tumbles out unvarnished. Then one day, a desperate unemployed writer named … More >>

The Invention of Lying

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  1. Is God just a desperate fib?

    That’s one of the main plot points in this movie, co-written and starring British actor/comedian Ricky Gervais.

    The movie creates a world where everyone tells the truth – all the time, no matter what – with funny and often awkward results. Then Gervais’ character stumbles upon telling the first fib.

    After a few untruths, Gervais is confronted by his mother, dying in a hospital bed and full of fear for her future. In order to bring her some comfort, he drops what is presented to viewers as a big, fat, glow-in-the-dark lie: When her life on earth is done, his mother doesn’t simply become nothing. She goes on to a happy existence living in a mansion and reuniting with all her already-dead loved ones.

    Apparently, the world created by Gervais has no spiritual books such as a Bible, because this is amazing news to the hospital staff, who overhear the “lie” and demand to know more. Word spreads and soon, hundreds of people surround Gervais’ house and he’s forced to “create” a faith system with commandments (scrawled the back of pizza boxes) and a man in the sky dispensing favour and punishment.

    One journalist, ignoring this very unfunny white elephant, wrote The Invention of Lying “recalls cinema classics like Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life – as much message as mirth.” The message, according to this journalist, is lying isn’t always a bad thing.

    Unaware of Gervais’ main plotline, my wife and I went to the theatre to watch this movie. When it finished, we walked out feeling sad.

    For us, the message of The Invention of Lying is spirituality is a joke that exists only because we’re all liars. And this is presented without a shred of evidence to back it up.

    Where does the universe come from? The movie doesn’t address this. What about a monumental figure like Jesus – his life and the revelations he told us about the nature of God? This is simply ignored. St. Paul, one of the writers of the Bible’s New Testament, described how hundreds of people saw Jesus resurrected from the grave after his death on the cross. Apparently this doesn’t matter, either.

    How about the thousands of documented cases of near-death experiences that suggest an afterlife? They supposedly don’t exist. A book like the Bible was written by more than 50 people over thousands of years; are they all liars? The casual, unspoken inference from Gervais is yes.

    My wife’s mother died not long ago and the hospital scene was a slap in the face for her (despite knowing the truth is quite different). Even for people who haven’t lost a loved one recently, the message from Gervais is utter hopelessness. Unless we fool ourselves with a lie, all of us die and become nothing, he suggests. We’ll never see loved ones again and we’ll never meet God.

    A classic along the lines of It’s a Wonderful Life? Perhaps The Invention of Lying could have been that. But the former presented a compelling case for hope. The latter suggests only that we live for today and the person with the most toys when they die does, indeed, win. Win what, Ricky??
    Rating: 1 / 5

  2. My wife and I went to see this new Ricky Gervais movie on the strength of Ghost Town which we loved.

    We were sadly disappointed. There were about 15 to 20 in the Saturday afternoon showing at our local film theater. Four walked out after giving it what they must have felt was a fair shot. Others of us stayed to the bitter end. There was one young woman in the audience who was giggling the whole way through but she was a minority of one, though there was some occasional laughter, not thigh-slapping stuff, but slightly amused tokens of appreciation.

    The idea for the movie is great. We looked to see some depth but saw and heard only the banal and grovelling.

    From the beginning you know that Gervais’s opinon of people is low. His character goes to pick up a girl for a date. Her spoken “honest” thoughts, when she answered the door were that he had interrupted her masturbating and she was going upstairs to finish this activity. Then she would go out with him but she didn’t really like him. Other characters seem to have nothing on their mind but the sensual too. There was little of nobility, kindness, originality or virtue. It was a sad and, to some extent I am sure, false indictment of society.

    It could have been so much more but failed to fulfill its promise. So if you liked Ghost Town, which was clever and largely free from vulgarity of any kind, you may find that this one will lower your opinion of Gervais as it did ours. We will think twice about seeing any future movies of his. We bought “Ghost Town” though and aim to see it occasionally in memory of what Ricky Gervais can be.

    Rating: 1 / 5

  3. For actors, I don’t mind Ricky Gervais as a comedian, though 1. I think he’s pretty fat (which the movie explains it all) and 2. He kind of acts like a little bit of baby. But other than that, he’s very funny. He’s funny in episodes of “The Office.” (I haven’t seen his other show “Extras”) I love him as Dr. McPhee in “Night at the Museum.” (and “Battle of the Smithsonian”) He could’ve been a lot worse in “Ghost Town,” but it was a tolerable film, nonetheless. However, I don’t like anything really about Jennifer Garner. She’s scary, weird, odd (her smile is too). I can’t stand her period.

    So I had nothing else to do today, so I wound up catching an afternoon showing for this movie, and I would have to say “The Invention of Lying” is funny in both good and bad ways. There were some parts that were kind of dull, boring and mindless, though I did like the premise of the movie, the jokes weren’t that bad and it has a decent message (more like a similarity with “Ghost Town”). Seriously though, a more appropriate title should be called “The Importance of Living.”

    “The Invention of Lying” tells the story of a guy named Mark Bellison (played by Ricky Gervais). He goes on his first date with Anna (Jennifer Garner), although Anna wants to dump him quickly than possibly. Mark gets fired from his workplace. Sooner or later, his mother dies, which then makes him want to make up make-believe history that happened during the Black Plague (well maybe before it) called when you die, and you go to heaven, you’ll live in a mansion. Other people try to ask him by saying “you know, what’s the point?”

    Then Mark becomes the most richest person in the world and wants to marry Anna. Anna, on the other hand, does noticeably agree and she does accept the fact that Mark is a bit chubby and would like to have a chubby child. But Anna’s mom wants her to marry Mark’s nemisis, Brad Kessler. On Mark’s point of view, he realizes that he told a really dumb lie and that because of that, his mother isn’t living in that mansion. Most people want to lead a sedentary, miserable life, so they can live in that mansion, which has to have Mark make up for all the garbage that he did to create the world a depressing life. Mark has to rescue Anna from Brad Kessler’s clutches and make things better again.

    The more exciting roles are the small parts like any other movie with Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Edward Norton, Christopher Guest and Jonah Hill. And better yet, they stole the whole show. It’s also great to see the last listed two in a movie together since last summer’s “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian” co-starring with the co-star of that movie, Ricky Gervais. However there is no Ben Stiller involved so I’d rather keep the rest of it to myself in case if these actors are even reading that movie (and the first film) were reading this review. However, I never had problems with Phillip Seymour Hoffman after “Along Came Polly” and his villain role in “M:i-III,” and Edward Norton as “The Incredible Hulk,” which will lead to some of the perfectness for this film.

    There were moments in the film where I would laugh and cry, but other than that, “The Invention of Lying” is a cute film, though wouldn’t be the right film in order for it to be my cup of tea. I actually don’t mind these type of comedies, but most parts of “The Invention of Lying” actually kind of reek a little too much. The jokes are very funny in some scenes but most scenes relate to either ridiculous silliness or obnoxiousness. I would have to say “The Invention of Lying” falls into both 100%.

    Ricky Gervais is always the little whinybaby in his other movies. He actually holds up a lot of this in “Ghost Town,” which makes me say “give it a rest, will ya!” He does it even more, this time around. Actually a whole lot more. I mean, other than that, I can see that Ricky Gervais tends to be that funny. How often can he at least try? Ehh…every few moments, now and then.

    But the real problem of the movie was Jennifer Garner. I may have mentioned this to you in the first paragraph, but I will have to say that I never liked Jennifer Garner. I can’t stand her in anything. Still, she does have a weird look in this movie that totally gives me the freaks. Actually, it can do even more in this one. Even her role of “Elektra,” OMG, will ya give that a rest, Jenn. I couldn’t even stand her in her other film, “13 Going On 30.” So I won’t accept her for my liking.

    Other than that, “The Invention of Lying” is a cute movie. It’s not necessarily my cup of tea, but 2 1/2 stars is perfect for this movie. It’s on the rank of above average which is what best describes this movie. I mean I had no problem with the movie, but I could’ve actually watched a whole lot better. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this movie for anyone, unless if they are fans of Ricky Gervais.
    Rating: 3 / 5

  4. Ricky Gervais has been publicized as the combined reincarnation of Charlie Chaplin and Peter Sellers. But although I think the man has talent, I have yet to see any signs of genius from him. Indeed, “The Invention of Lying,” which Gervais co-wrote and co-directed with Matthew Robinson, suggests strongly he is reaching the limits of his competence. The story has a clever enough premise, postulating a world in which no one can even conceive of lying, tact, or imagination. People tell you flat out that they hate you or are threatened by you, movies consist strictly of armchair historical lectures, and nursing homes bear names such as, “A Sad Place for Hopeless Old People.”

    In this incessantly literal world, Mark Bellison (Gervais) suddenly discovers he can steal a march on everyone else by, in his words, saying things that aren’t. He can get enough money to pay his rent by telling a bank teller he has more money in his account than he actually does; he can persuade a beautiful blonde to sleep with him by telling her the world will end if she doesn’t. The plot goes on, providing fairly frequent chuckles and an occasional belly laugh, until the scene where Bellison sits by the deathbed of his mother (Fionnula Flanagan). The old lady is terrified at the prospect of eternal nothingness, so Bellison invents on the spur of the moment a beautiful place where dead souls go, where everyone has a mansion and is surrounded by everyone they loved in life. The old lady dies comforted, and the hospital staff, overhearing, demands to hear more.

    This leads to the funniest scene in the movie–one worthy of Monty Python–in which Bellison is forced to invent religion on the spot, including commandments written on pizza boxes. (The constant product placements–not only Pizza Hut but also Coke, Pepsi, and Budweiser–are a major irritant in this film.) However, the film falls flat after this scene, because Gervais–rather than playing his bold heresy for all it’s worth–retreats to the insipid love triangle between Bellison, the lovely Anna McDoogles (Jennifer Garner) and the loathsome Brad Kessler (Rob Lowe).

    I have two problems with “The Invention of Lying”–one personal, one esthetic. As someone who, shall we say, doesn’t keep a copy of “The God Delusion” on my coffee table, I feel insulted by Gervais’ smug atheism, in which he asserts that plain truth equals a godless universe and anyone who disagrees is a self-deluded fool. But Gervais is entitled to his beliefs; the bigger problem for the movie is that he simply doesn’t capitalize on his “Man in the Sky” plot twist, so that the story becomes a yawning gulf of missed opportunties. For example, politics: couldn’t Bellison have a meteoric career in politics, outfoxing his opponents with constant pronouncments from The Man in the Sky? The opportunities for satirizing the current political scene, with its plethora of fanatics and hypocrites, were so juicy that I am dumbfounded Gervais avoided them. One weeps at the thought of what a Mark Twain, or even a George Carlin, could have done here.

    “The Invention of Lying” is stuffed with cameos by celebrities–Tina Fey, Edward Norton, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Christopher Guest, Jason Bateman, John Hodgman, etc.–all of whom obviously believe in the genius of Ricky Gervais. I, however, remain an agnostic.
    Rating: 2 / 5

  5. Ricky Gervais is a brilliant comedian. You don’t really need me to you that, you only need to watch the original version of “The Office” to see this. In addition to creating the memorable lead of this British television series, he and his longtime creative partner, Stephen Merchant, created the series, crafting an ensemble of memorable, very original and very funny characters. He was almost as good on the series “Extras”. But he has had some difficulty transitioning to the role of movie star; he has appeared in a number of memorable supporting roles, but his two leading performances, so far, have been problematic, forgettable and pretty darn bad.

    In “Ghost Town”, he plays a dentist who has a near death experience and starts to see ghosts. One of these ghosts, played by Greg Kinnear, uses him to communicate with his wife, played by Tea Leoni, in an effort to prevent her from marrying a bad guy, played by Billy Campbell. The film is amusing and even funny at times, but the story is too high concept and Gervais is too low key to match the story. In the end, the result is little better than the dramedies populating the many television channels on your Direct TV satellite.

    In his new film, “The Invention of Lying”, Gervais again stars, this time as Mark Bellison, a struggling film writer, who lives in a typical small town on the East Coast of a very different America. In this America, no one lies, so conversations are uncomfortably awkward and movies are uncommonly dull. This time, Gervais has teamed with Matthew Robinson to co-write and co-direct. Robinson has no other credits listed on, so I am not sure where he came from.

    Initially, the idea holds potential. As Bellison walks through town, we see some pretty honest advertisements. A billboard for Coca Cola announces that it is basically brown coloring, water and sugar. Another billboard for Pepsi announces, “When you can’t find a Coke”. These are amusing and instantly give us a picture of what this universe holds for us.

    The film opens with Bellison headed to the apartment of Anna (Jennifer Garner). They are to go on a first date together. When she answers the door, she immediately voices her true feelings about Mark, the date, and his chances of having sex with her. They go to a little Italian place for dinner and the waiter immediately voices his feelings for Anna. He also states that he took a sip of the drink he is now serving her. And this continues.

    Mark is having trouble at work. Bellison works for a movie company that basically films lecturers giving an oral history of a significant event or time period.

    Each of the writers has been assigned a specific time period and Mark has difficulty making anything interesting out of the Black Plague and the other subjects he has to work with. Because of this, his films have not been successful and he learns he will probably be fired. When he arrives at work, his secretary (Tina Fey) happily passes on this information, along with her true feelings of him. As he sits in his office, he watches his boss (Jeffrey Tambor) walk by and stop for a second and then continue on before walking by again. Mark stops him and has to almost fire himself.

    Mark’s main rival, Brad Kessler (Rob Lowe) is having a phenomenal run of success. People are flocking to the films he makes, anxious to watch the lecturer (Christopher Guest) sit in a chair and relate the details of a historical event. Mark doesn’t like Brad and Brad takes every opportunity to rub his success in Mark’s face.

    The next day, the landlord shows up and wants the rent. But Mark doesn’t have it. He goes to his bank and wants to withdraw the money he has, but makes a sarcastic comment about how he ‘would really like $800’. The teller assumes there has been a mistake and gives him the $800 instead. Mark has just invented a very valuable skill.

    There are a lot of problems with “The Invention of Lying”. An interesting idea quickly becomes flat when it becomes the only idea. Yes, there are variations on the theme, but it is essentially a one-note film. The first few times people spout their true feelings about someone or something, it takes us by surprise, shocking out a laugh. But people don’t talk as much as they do in “Lying”; they don’t stop and psychoanalyze their feelings with every thought. Does not talking about your feelings make you a liar? That seems to be the idea behind a lot of this film because people immediately start telling others how they really feel as soon as they come together.

    Something just occurred to me. There are more than a few moments when people say things like “I have always loathed working for you”. Yet, through a lot of the film, people immediately tell their feelings and first impressions about someone when they first meet. If this is the practice in this world, why is someone just now saying “I have always loathed working for you”? It doesn’t seem like the narrative can and should have it both ways.

    Also, a lot of these ‘truths” people voice are based on first impressions and that makes the characters seem shallow and mean. Certainly not likable or innocent. Because we don’t really care about anyone in the film, we quickly lose interest.

    Eventually, Mark learns of a way to get his job back and to become a very successful film writer. He starts to tell stories, to embellish the truth and creates something much more similar to the film we are watching. But when people ask where this information is coming from, because they aren’t aware of the skill of lying, Mark states that he talks to The Man Upstairs. This leads to a number of the characters trying to get Mark to introduce them to The Man Upstairs and this leads to some obvious parodies aimed at organized religion. An idea that quickly becomes tiresome because they just aren’t that original or interesting.

    A lot of the problems in “Lying” come from Gervais portrayal of Bellison. He spends a lot of the film reacting to others and giving the appearance of being aggravated or annoyed with others. Are we to believe that Bellison is the only one in the world frustrated with this situation? Everyone else seems to accept it when people instantly tell their impressions to a person they have just met, or to update the status of their feelings during a date. But Mark seems to receive a fare share of highly critical remarks and observations, which are funny at first, but just seem to become more and more mean spirited as the story progresses. And he is frustrated about this. After Mark turns this situation to his advantage and starts to become a success, his persona seems to change and he seems to start regarding others with frustration. As in “How can you be so dumb…” Again, this is funny, briefly, in the beginning, but again, quickly becomes tiresome.

    The other big problem with “Lying” is Jennifer Garner who plays Anna. She is just plain awful throughout the film. Immediately, her character states that she doesn’t hold any hope for the date because Mark doesn’t make enough money and the likelihood they will have sex on the first date is slim because Mark is fat and unattractive. Anna starts out as an extremely unlikable character. This isn’t a bad thing, if there is some sort of metamorphosis throughout the story. But she doesn’t change at all. Later, she becomes interested in Brad, because he is “good looking”, successful, and wealthy. Everything she is. Everything she wants and should have. In other words, Mark is not up to her standards and Brad is.

    Garner seems to think that Anna should be portrayed as Marilyn Monroe might portray the character. She talks in a seductive whisper and smiles a lot. Yet, she doesn’t succeed at bringing Anna any smarts, she only makes Anna seem vapid and insecure.

    Tina Fey is only in the film for a few minutes. As soon as Mark appears at work, she tells him that he is about to get fired and states “I have always loathed working for you”. Again, how can the narrative have it both ways? If people are so quick to tell their impressions of people to them, why has it taken her character so long?

    Rob Lowe is just plain creepy as Brad Kessler. Louis C.K., Jonah Hill, Fionula Flanagan and others pop up in equally unmemorable roles and don’t really seem to understand what they are doing.

    “The Invention of Lying” is a film that goes very wrong, very quickly and can’t recover.

    Skip it. Consider yourself warned.
    Rating: 1 / 5

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