FILM REVIEW: The Invention Of Lying

12A • 100 mins • 2 October

Directors: Ricky Gervais, Matthew Robinson

Cast: Ricky Gervais, Jennifer Garner, Jonah Hill, Jeffrey Tambor, Rob Lowe, Tina Fey

Rating:

After flirting with the supernatural in his first starring feature role, Ghost Town, Ricky Gervais has once again delved into the realms of fantasy for his co-writing and co-directing Hollywood debut.

The Invention Of Lying is set in a Capra-esque parallel reality where everyone’s compelled to tell the truth, no matter how embarrassing or difficult the consequences. That is, until luckless screenwriter Mark Bellison (Gervais) inadvertently lets slip a little fib that gets him out of a sticky situation.

Like a more humdrum version of Brazil, the film cleverly highlights that a society built upon complete truths is one that lacks any imagination. Soft drink commercials bluntly state their product’s sugary content, while Bellison’s glamorous date Jennifer (a mawkish Jennifer Garner) declares that she sees no future in their relationship, as his imperfect DNA would result in genetically-flawed offspring.

After discovering the power of lies, Bellison rises to fame and fortune, as he’s transformed from a scribbler of dull historical documentaries about plague into a master of highly improbable fantasies.

But therein lies the film’s main problem. Life before Bellison’s eureka moment is inherently dull, and it doesn’t get much more interesting afterwards. As the disappointing Extras Christmas special proved, Gervais is an expert at creating half-hour sitcoms, but not so adept when it comes to 90-minute pieces that place more emphasis on pathos and drama than gags and one-liners.

Gervais envisages Bellison as a kind of modern-day Walter Mitty, who becomes an unwitting messiah. However, the character’s mannerisms are so close to those of David Brent and Andy Millman that you half expect him to break out into that dance. Amusing but disappointing.

Stephen Jewell