The Invention of Lying

Once upon a time there was a world where people not only did not lie, they didn’t know how, nor could they recognize a lie if it was spoken. Of course this automatically puts a damper on things like courtship (“If I had children by you, they would be fat and have stubby noses, so this will be our only date.”), advertising (a Pepsi ad says, “For when they don’t have Coke...”), and television (no fiction). Not surprisingly, this makes for a pretty bland world, as there are no illusions, no fantasies.

Ricky Gervais (the excellent “Ghost Town”) is a screen writer for a television show. He has been assigned to write about the 14th Century, which had only the Black Plague to recommend it, so he isn’t surprised when his script fails to generate any enthusiasm and he is fired. His secretary, played by Tina Fey (“Ponya” and “30 Rock”), volunteers that she won’t miss him, as she never liked him anyway.

Along with Gervais and Fey, you will enjoy the talents of:
  • Jennifer Garner (“Juno”) who is the reluctant object of Gervais’ affection;
  • Jeffrey Tambor (“Arrested Development”) is his boss;
  • Rob Lowe (“Brothers and Sisters”) plays a truly despicable co-worker;
  • Jonah Hill (“Funny People”) is a suicidal neighbor;
  • Louis C.K. (writer for “Saturday Night Live”) is our hero’s best friend;
  • Christopher Guest (“Night at the Museum…Smithsonian”) is a stuffy TV host;
  • Edward Norton (“The Painted Veil”) uncredited as a traffic cop.

Much of the humor in the early part of the movie is generated by people telling the bald, unvarnished truth. We come to realize how much easier life can be when it is leavened with little white lies. Our hero stumbles into telling his first fib at a bank; this new-found skill causes him to make his mother’s death a much easier passage, as he is able to allay her fears…to the amazement of the medical staff who overhears his well- intentioned fiction about eternal life, meeting long-dead loved ones and mansions in the sky.

This will probably generate a lot of flack from religious folks but personally, I found it not only lots of harmless fun, but nicely done, too… particularly the confused reactions of the populace as a whole, as people seek The Truth.

As an aside, I got a kick out of seeing the headboard of Gervais’ bed blocking his bedroom window. That seems to be peculiarly British; we Americans tend to leave our windows unblocked.