“You actually do look fat in that dress.” “No, I don’t really love you.” These are just some of the things you would undoubtedly hear yourself saying if you lived in a world where lying is something no one is capable of. “The Invention of Lying” presents us with just that scenario. While it relies too much on this almost gimmicky premise, “Lying” is still sweet and funny.
Mark Bellison (Gervais) inhabits a world where everyone tells the truth. The mere idea of lying isn’t even a possibility. While closing out his account at his local bank, something inside Mark’s brain snaps, and he suddenly finds himself able to lie about anything and everything. He now has the world at his fingertips, but when he tells a comforting lie to his mother on her death bed, the whole town looks upon Mark, since he’s the only person who knows what’s going on, to give them the truth, and he’ll have to lie to satiate their ever-demanding needs.
Fans of Gervais and the British version of “The Office” are bound to enjoy his performance. He employs that straight-laced, dead-pan style of acting that he’s best known for. It’s this delivery of lines that employs some of the biggest laughs. Garner, for as brutally honest as her character is, is rather demure in her role. Tina Fey, although she’s only in the film for around five minutes, gives a very funny performance as a woman who truly lets her boss know everything she’s thinking.
The most entertaining aspect of “Lying” comes in the second half, when the film takes an unexpected turn. For most of the film, Gervais uses his ability to lie as a means to gain everything he’s ever wanted. But when it’s found out that he seems to know about what happens after you die, things start to spin out of control and Gervais begins to feel responsible for the lies he’s told the townspeople. This situation makes for some great satirical comedy, especially when Gervais explains to them that “The Man in the Sky” is responsible for both the good and bad that has happened to everyone. Unfortunately, the satirical aspect of “Lying” does not get played to its full potential. There are a lot of sight gags involved, but it’s not saying as much as it could be.
For a comedy that uses lying as its backbone for laughs, the film still manages to exude some moments of sweetness. These scenes come through when Gervais realizes that lying is not going to get him everything he wants and the only way to truly get the woman he loves is if she realizes for herself that he’s the one for her.
My main complaint with “Lying” is how nearly every single one of its jokes relies heavily on the fact that these people need to tell the truth. While it makes for a lot of awkward situations that provide comedy, it doesn’t change the fact that the entire film is based around this slim premise.
Gervais steps behind the camera with co-screenwriter Matthew Robinson to co-direct his first feature-length film. Gervais is obviously competent behind the camera, but there’s nothing really there that stands out. It’s a middle-of-the-road production with rather flat camera work. They both know what they’re doing, but nothing really seems to jump out and pop.
“Lying” provides enough laughs to keep the audience entertained but still remains a relatively shallow film. If anything, it’s worth checking out an inexpensive matinee showing.