Raph’s Guide to Moving Pictures #10: Lies and Laughter

Raph al Guul

I did not know that about two years ago, Ricky Gervais made his debut as a director until I recently – and randomly – stumbled upon a trailer for The Invention of Lying. Needless to say, I pretty much immediately got a hold of that film and watched it. I almost feel ashamed for not knowing that there was a film that stars Ricky Gervais, Jennifer Garner (aka Jennifer Affleck), Louis CK, Rob Lowe, and Tina Fey at the same time. If you have any appreciation for any of these actors, you will know that even if this film were to suck, there would still be enjoyable performances by the cast to make up for it. For me, this was like watching a Nicholas Cage movie – except that it starred several Nicholas Cages and I did not anticipate that it was going to be really bad.

Anyway, let’s talk about the actual film, shall we? First of all, let me just say that The Invention of Lying is incredibly funny. Fanboys will be fanboys, but what did you expect from a film that is written by, directed by, and starring Ricky Gervais? The man obviously knows his stuff, and when a high-calibre comedian makes a comedy, The Invention of Lying is what it should look like. Don’t get me wrong, though, the film is what the cool kids these days call a “RomCom” (or however you spell the “Romantic Comedy”’s godforsaken abbreviation). It’s not “just” funny. In fact, the comedic aspects of a situation are sometimes cast aside in favor of a more serious tone.

It wouldn’t be Raph’s Guide to Moving Pictures, if I didn’t find something to nag about. Here is the deal: those situations – where the seriousness prevails over the fun – did not entirely convince me. The problem is that the movie plays in an alternate universe, where there is only one little detail different from our world: people cannot lie. Now, the way that the plot is set up, it often seems like the ability to lie is actually a good thing that is necessary for our society, particularly our social lives, to work. And while I do not necessarily disagree with that, there is a difference between bending the truth ever so slightly and outright lying. To see a father high-five his son for lying to his mother’s face makes me feel slightly uncomfortable. There are a few instances in The Invention of Lying that make me feel like the film promotes insincerity.

In addition to that, the entire story is not exactly air-tight, even if you were to completely accept that this is actually set in a world where no one ever lied. The romantic aspects seem very constructed at times; I am absolutely willing to accept that romance is not possible without the existence of lies, because I believe that trust – which consequently would not exist, either – is an important aspect of any relationship. But The Invention of Lying seems to distort this relation somewhat, as the film implies that in order for someone to trust you, you first have to lie to them. I am pretty sure that this is not the intention of the makers, but I feel like they do not make that explicit.

To come to a conclusion: Some of the moral implications of this film are highly questionable and even cheesy to me and consequently, I am not inclined to appreciate some aspects of the story. But two fun facts about me: First of all, I am not you. This is a minor aspect that I personally didn’t like. It might not offend you as much if you do not see the same implications that I do. And secondly, I do not watch films for the “romantic” subplots. It doesn’t bother me because I don’t assign too much significance to them. In the end, I am willing to ignore the weak plot and even the questionable moral message of the film for its sheer, raw fun. It’s called “guilty pleasure” for a reason. If you are not planning on starting a philosophical discourse on morals based on this film, want to laugh at absurd dialogue and situations, and don’t mind that the story proves to be subpar at points, you should give Gervais’s debut a try. Have I mentioned it stars Louis CK? I’m pretty sure I have, but you might have forgotten.

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