Sunday, October 4, 2009

Lacking in Truth

It was a spur of the moment decision. Several other interns were headed out on the town, and it included a trip to see "The Invention of Lying."

In short, it is a satirical romantic comedy -- with a surprise thematic element of anti-religion.

The Office fans know that Ricky Gervais (original star of the British version of The Office) plays the leading role of Mark Bennison, an unhappy documentary script writer. (His writing specialty is for the uneventful 13th century.)

The story takes place in an alternate universe where everyone tells the truth. This results in most of the humor in the movie.

Romantic interest Anna McDoogles (Jennifer Garner) tells Gervais flat out, "This will probably be our last date. You are not my genetic equal. Our children would inherit 50 percent of your genes, and we'd have fat little kids with snub noses."

Gervais does not seem fazed by the blunt comments he receives day in and day out ("You're such a loser.") But his luck changes one day when heads to the bank so he can pay the landlord. The computers are down, so Gervais lies about the amount of money he has in his account. Now, since everyone tells the truth, the teller believes that he has $800 when he actually has $300.

"Of course, our computers must have made a mistake," says the teller. And with that, she hands him the excess cash.

Viewers see an inside look of Gervais' brain, whereby he finds the genius discovery of lying. He describes it to his friends as "Have you ever said something that wasn't?" His friend are, no doubt, confused. For in fact, they have never lied -- and don't know how to.

In a particularly tender moment, Gervais says goodbye to his mom; she subsequently dies in a hospital room. To make her feel better he (lies?) about what the afterlife will be like. She dies in peace - or so we believe.

But suddenly everyone wants to know what heaven is like. Thus begins a series of fibs about the afterlife to help make people feel better about life and can see how this would complicate things.

After a late night of writing the "Nine Rules" (Ten Commandments, anyone?), on the back of pizza box containers, Gervais describes to crowds of people about the "Man in the Sky" who lets you do up three bad things in your life. In heaven, everyone gets a mansion. And you can eat your favorite ice cream whenever you want.

The movie has been described as a subversive chick flick. And that it is. The romantic mush begins when Gervais tries to show Anna there is more to a person that the outward appearance. While that is a main plot, the religious (or anti-religious) undertones blare pretty loudly throughout.

News outlets have praised it, others have criticized it and called it heresy. Reaction ran the gamut:
  • The Flickcast thought it was middle of the road. "(Gervais) pokes a bit of fun at religion."
  • Focus on the Family's Plugged In was suprisingly light on the criticism of a film that outright assaults Christianity. Rather, Paul Asay extends a call for more Christian moviemakers (Gervais is a committed atheist) who might make movies that "tell all of us Christianity might not be such a lie after all."
  • Variety said Gervais' film "never tops the explosive hilarity of its first 20 minutes."
The movie does poke fun at religion. There are no churches, but instead pristine buildings called "A Quiet Place to Think About the Man in the Sky."

It demonstrates that lying can actually be useful, but also reminds viewers that there is more to beauty than meets the eye - even if you have to lie to get someone to love you.

Funny? Yes. Controversial? That too.


Post a Comment