What would it be like to be the only person in the world who could tell a lie? Well, if The Invention Of Lying is anything to go by, it’d be fun for about ten minutes and then mostly suck. Here’s a film that delivers a promising concept but never really goes anywhere, undoing some good groundwork and ending up an unfulfilling, empty experience.
Mark Collison (Ricky Gervais) lives in a normal world where no one cal lie; everyone compulsively tells the truth, no matter how blunt or bleak. Mark’s not having the best of days either; he’s just been on a date with a girl he’s had his eyes on for years, but unfortunately Anna (Jennifer Garner) thinks he’s unnattractive, a loser and only wants to date men who’ll give her pretty babies. To make matters worse, Mark gets fired from his job the next day, and then is on the verge of losing his apartment when he lies to a bank teller and asks for more money than he actually has in his account. It’s this world’s first lie, and subsequently, everything Mark says, even great big whopping lies with a cherries on top are taken as gospel by everyone around him, because they can’t question them.
If it sounds like a good premise, the idea and the world that Mark inhabits is particularly bleak. No one seems happy, everyone seems depressed and the idea of everyone constantly telling the truth often leads down a bleak, morbid road. It’s slightly funny, but it’s uncomfortable at the same time. It’s so odd to see a writer as talented as Ricky Gervais (who co-wrote and co-directed the film) deliver an idea that seems half-baked, one that promises so much but delivers some downright baffling direction and ends with such a cliched romantic comedy conclusion that it just isn’t believable. If the film was fun, smartly written and had interesting characters then it’s faults could be forgiven, but it doesn’t have enough quality in any of those aspects to really pull it from surprising mediocrity.
Ricky Gervais deserves to take Hollywood by storm, but this certainly won’t be remembered as his best work. As with his previous release, Ghost Town, The Invention Of Lying never really fully realises itself, and as a result it doesn’t get anywhere near being an absorbing film.