Science will tell you that humans begin lying around the ripe old age of two years old, so it’s a bold thought to wonder what implications there would be to society if we were all honest people. Writer/director pair Ricky Gervais and Matthew Robinson attempt to create such a world in the romance comedy The Invention of Lying.
Gervais plays Mark Bellison, a down-on-his-luck writer that can’t seem to catch a break. In a world where everyone is blunt to the point of insult, he’s the butt of every joke honesty can hold. Coworkers admit exuberantly that they loathe him, women inform him he has no chance with them, and his mother is dying. Soon, though, Bellison learns he can tell a lie (throughout the movie he struggles to explain what he’s doing, because no one has ever done this before). Although the absurd bluntness of characters creates comedy in all forms during the first half-hour of the movie, one begins to wonder who would actually believe that pure honesty automatically means full disclosure. Eventually, people’s openness to insults wears thin, and The Invention of Lying struggles a bit to find another means of humour to continue the movie with. This is where it begins to struggle, and bounces between thought piece, philosophical jab, slapstick humour, and romance story.
The cast boasts recognizable names all over the board, bringing in a wide range for potential talent to add to the story. Instead, each side character begins a plot that is either almost instantly solved by Gervais’ character, or simply dropped all together. It would seem as though Gervais simply uses his co-stars as spring boards to set up his own lines and jokes. Only Jennifer Garner, who plays love interest Anna, seems to be able to fight the spotlight away at times. Many of her star lines were improvised on set, and it goes to highlight her own ability to control and deliver dry and satirical humour.
One of the shining moments is when Mark brings a script into his work that would make the most ridiculous sci-fi pulp fiction story look like a masterpiece. The sheer absurdity of this story, and the reactions of Mark’s coworkers as they eat it up, is hilarious. Viewers might end up laughing hysterically at the overdone theatrics of the entire scene.
Like its main character, this movie tries too hard. It ends up being too much of a thought experiment to really be billed as a romance, leaving the main plot of man trying to get woman floundering around. Although Gervais’ humour and wit are highlights, they fight to drag the movie along and keep it in an upbeat mood.