Tuesday, February 07, 2017

The Invention of Lying (2009)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

Could you imagine a world with no lying?  This would be a world  where no one would know how to say something that wasn’t true.  Words like ‘true’ and ‘lie’ wouldn’t even exist.  Ricky Gervais and Matthew Robinson imagined such a world.  They wrote The Invention of Lying, in which Gervais plays Mark Bellison.

In Mark’s world, things are basically the same.  They still have movies, corrupt police officers and attractive women.  It’s just that since there is no lying, there’s no fiction.  Since there’s no fiction, all movies are documentaries.  When I say documentary, I mean some guy sitting in front of a camera telling the audience what happened.  Police officers will still take an occasional bribe, but are totally honest about their motives.

Things aren’t going so well for Mark.  He’s attracted to a woman, Anna, who doesn’t reciprocate.  He has a job writing movies about a century no one cares about, leading to his termination.  His termination leads to his being evicted.  His being evicted leads to an epiphany.  When he goes to close out his bank account, the system is down.  He has to give the teller a dollar amount, which Mark realizes can be any dollar amount. It doesn’t have to be the actual dollar amount, so he chooses the amount he owes his landlord.  When the system comes back up and the teller sees the correct amount, the teller thinks it’s a computer mistake.

Mark then realizes that he can do this as much as he wants.  The best part is that no one will suspect anything.  Since he’s the only one that knows what a lie is, people should act like the teller.  Mark goes into a casino and lies about winning.  He can claim to win the jackpot on every machine and the casino will never think to ask Mark any questions.  He can also go up to random women and tell them that the fate of the world depends on them having sex right now.  (This does lead to some sense of guilt, especially where Anna is concerned.)

Things get complicated when his mother is dying.  She’s scared, which is natural.  Mark doesn’t want this, so he invents a story about going to a great place in the sky where she’ll be loved.  He doesn’t think much of it, but an employee of the nursing home overhears him.  She passes the story along and before long, Mark has a following.  Mark doesn’t really want the attention.  The story was only for his mother’s benefit.  The rest of the movie deals with the snowball effect that results.  People want to know more about this Great Man in the Sky, so Mark has to make stuff up on the fly.

There’s something interesting about a world without lying.  As I said, there’s not so much as fiction or even lying in advertising.  Mark’s mother isn’t at a nursing home.  She’s in A Sad Place for Hopeless Old People.  Could you imagine what it would be like to be able to lie?  Even when Mark explains lying, people still can’t wrap their heads around it.  (That was the one thing I wondered about.  There should at least be terms for accurate and inaccurate, so a lie could be described as knowingly saying something inaccurate.)

The movie is safe for teenagers and up.  There are a few sexual jokes, some involving masturbation.  Mar’s Man in the Sky parallels religion.  The humor really isn’t meant to poke fun at religion.  Instead, it says more about how things get out of hand quickly.  Something that starts with the best of intentions becomes a major organization similar to what we would call a church.  Some of the things seem absurd, like Mark’s story where everything came from.  Then again, who is anyone to question Mark?  It would never enter their minds to think that he’s lying or might be crazy, as far out as it seems.

That was the one thing that I found odd.  I would think that in thousands of years of recorded history, someone would make a mistake or would be mentally unbalanced and say something that wasn’t true.  Is everyone totally accurate in this world?  One inaccuracy would present the opportunity to realize that you can deliberately make a mistake.  It wasn’t a big deal, overall.  It was a funny movie.  I’d recommend renting it. 

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