I went to see the Invention of Lying, the most recent vehicle for Ricky Gervais’s movie career playing fictitious versions of himself. Having seen his last offering, Ghost Town, I was a little worried that this film would be similarly promising, but ultimately lacking in consistency when it came to laughs.
So like Ghost Town, The Invention of Lying is a high concept film which features an alternate universe where people are unable to say anything that isn’t 100 per cent true. So naturally there are numerous scenes, where we are led to titter at someone unflinchingly telling a waiter that the restaurant's food was terrible, or in other scenes where people bluntly and unflinchingly say that they hate their co-workers. It's a bit like a reality TV talent show really. That’s where Mark Bellingham (Gervais) comes in, as the tubby loser (I’m not being harsh, this fact is repeatedly shoved down the audiences throat by many of the characters), who after being fired from his job, and failing dismally to attract women comes across the ability to tell lies. Cue hilarity; an attempt to win the girl of his dream, and the accidental invention of religion as he comforts his dying mother.
Of course most of the laughs are going to be due to the high concept theme, such as when Bellingham proves the ability to lie to his friends by announcing he is black, to which one of his friends replies “I knew it;” unable to distinguish untruths from truths. However, the best laughs come when he accidentally invents religion – as mentioned above. The scene where he sets the rules for his new religion; reading off pizza boxes instead of stone slabs - an obvious nod to Moses laying down the ten commandments - is hilarious.
The high concept world without lies is also deserving of praise as it is well thought-out; taking note of small details such as the lack of fiction, and adverts which can’t bend the facts. Most notably in the case of an ad for Pepsi declaring their drink is: “For when they haven’t got Coke.” You can tell that a fictional world has succeeded in capturing your imagination, when you desire to find out more about its intricacies which haven’t been explained. Like in my case what happened during the Watergate scandal, without the ability to lie.
Now whilst I enjoyed this film, and definitely prefer it to Ghost Town – I feel that the whole performance from Gervais was far too self conscious. Fine, we understand you are able to poke fun at your podgy figure and the fact you feel inferior to women, but it doesn’t need to be shouted repeatedly at us in this way, it just becomes tiresome.
However, whilst I got sick of Gervais overemphasising how much of loser Bellingham is meant to be, the biggest problem is with the love interest Anna (Jennifer Garner). There is one word to sum her up and that is boring. Anna is also a vacuous; uninteresting; eugenics obsessive, with very few redeeming features. The fact that she is totally driven by looks and lacks any personality makes the film frustrating to watch after a time. It’s made worse by the fact Bellingham is so smitten by her. Whilst being physically repugnant to her, he is ultimately a kind and thoughtful man, so it becomes painful to see him pouring praise on her as human being – of course she fails to return the favour – whilst she sits there thinking she just deserves it for being pretty. Also she keeps moaning about her need to spawn perfect physically little narcissists, even if it means being married and fucked by a complete cunt (played wonderfully by Rob Lowe) for the trouble. Seriously why didn’t someone introduce her to Saddam Hussein? She would probably really hit it off on a personal level. Also the laughs rather tail off towards the end, as the love story takes hold of the plot, which I felt ruined the enjoyment a little, and made the film seem a bit schizophrenic.
So there you have it, The Invention of Lying, is a far better than its predecessor, and the laughs are definitely there. Whilst it’s a film of two halves, and the fact it’s no film of the year in my mind, it is certainly a worthwhile cinema experience. Also look out for a brilliant cameo from Stephen Merchant and Shaun ‘Barry-off-Eastenders’ Williamson.