Saturday, 1 May 2010


In a world similar to ours except that the human race has never evolved the ability to tell a lie, everybody says what they think even if it's harsh or embarassing. Until one day when a strange thing happens to Mark Bellison (Ricky Gervais).

The Invention of Lying originated as a draft script from freshman L.A. screenwriter Matthew Robinson. Producer Lynda Obst convinced Robinson's idol, British comedic genius Ricky Gervais - co-creator of TV comedy series The Office and Extras - to read it. Gervais and Matthew Robinson ended up writing and directing the movie together.

Mark Bellison is a struggling screenwriter. In a world where there's no such things as deceit, flattery or even fiction, movies are moments from history read by narrators like an introduction of Masterpiece Theatre. Bellison is mad about the lovely Anna McDoogles (Jennifer Garner) but she dines with him only to please her mother and because she's afraid to spend the rest of her life alone, even if she doesn't find him attractive.

He's fired because his last script was too "depressing" (the Black Plague!) and he is about to be evicted. When at the bank in order to close his account, Mark asks for more than he really has without any kind of suspicion from the cashier. He tests his new power on his friends and in casinos, then realizes he can do some good around him and later sells his former boss (Jeffrey Tambor) the best script ever written. A story with a spaceship, a ninja army and a robot dinosaur... in the 14th century.

Mark Bellison's true moment of glory actually comes involuntarily when he tells his dying mother (Fionnula Flanagan) about the wonderful things that come after death. Now he's a rich global celebrity but still can't conquer Anna's heart, as the young woman is stopped by her genetic prejudices - in spite of her growing feelings for him.

The Invention of Lying is an astute social comedy. In the world of Mark Bellison a homeless man in the street holds a cardboard which states: "I don't understand why I'm homeless and you're not". The retirement home is called "A sad place for hopeless old people". Commercials are honest or disillusioned ("Pepsi, when they don't have Coke").

Gervais is at his best when it comes to human relationships and particularly in workplace: Mark's secretary openly hates him, his boss is a coward and his professional and sentimental rival, Brad Kessler (incredible Rob Lowe) is the epitome of shallow. The film is also an enlightening, moving and poetic philosophical tale with reflections about prejudice, religion or creativity. Its only weakness is certainly the romance between the hero and Anna.

The Invention of Lying is not Ricky Gervais's Liar Liar but his Groundhog Day and the versatile comedian is surrounded by an excellent cast. Louis C.K. as Greg (Mark's best friend), and Jonah Hill as Frank - a neighbour Mark saves from suicide - are fabulous. And there are tasty cameos from Tina Fey, Stephen Merchant, Edward Norton, or Philip Seymour Hoffman. Hoffman is Mark and Greg's bartender in a scene which could be used as an audition for Gervais as Homer in a live action Simpsons movie.

Region 1 DVD contains the very good French-speaking dubbing made in Quebec with the talented Tristan Harvey, who should be the only voice of Ricky Gervais in French. Virtually ignored by US box office, The Invention of Lying is released confidentially in French theaters this week.

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