This is Ron Salfen, “At The
Movies,” and here’s my commentary on a film opening today at The
Majestic Theater in
At first, “The Invention Of Lying”
was really funny: a world where
everyone tells the truth, no matter how painful, because they can do no
other. So when Mark (Ricky
Gervais, who looks like how you would envision Walter Mitty) arrives at the
door of his arranged date, Anna (Jennifer Garner), she flatly tells him that
he is out of her league, and she’s not looking forward to going out with
him. The same happens at work,
when his administrative assistant (Tina Fey), upon hearing he’s fired,
says to him, “I never liked you, anyway.
You’re a loser.” Comedy
as straight-faced put-downs, received matter-of-factly.
Even the ads are painfully honest (“Pepsi.
When they don’t have Coke.”)
But something happens inside Mark’s
head when his elderly Mother (whom he calls a “loser,” seemingly in
retaliation for all the slurs upon his character) is at the point of death.
At first, he tells her what is apparently universally accepted:
when you die, that’s it. You’re
in the ground, and all is nothingness.
But Mark decides, for the first time in history, to lie.
He tells his Mom that she is going to heaven, where she’ll see
everyone she ever loved, and everything will be happy, and she’ll have a
mansion. She, of course,
believes every word, because no deceit, fantasy, fiction, or personal
religious belief has ever been uttered before.
(Notice in what category religion is perceived.)
Mark, flabbergasted, soon discovers
that everyone believes everything he says, whether it’s true or not.
He tells his friends that he invented the bicycle, and they believe
him. He tells people what he
thinks they want to hear about “The Old Man In The Sky,” and soon he’s
holding a press conference trying to answer all their questions.
(Yes, the Old Man In The Sky causes both good and evil.
And you get three chances to make a mistake without risking losing
your own mansion in the sky.) He
even makes up Ten Sentences about The Old Man In The Sky, and writes them on
pizza boxes (so that he can later be seen in stained glass windows, holding
up the pizza boxes like….stone tablets).
OK, we get the farce.
But what could have been light-hearted (like Monty Python’s “The
Search For the Holy Grail”) instead turns really cynical.
It’s as if the producers of this film would like to accuse anyone
who actually believes any of this silly tripe called religion of being
really irrational, idiotic, and pitiable.
They’re also trying to establish the idea that romance can happen
even between people who aren’t “genetically appropriate” for each
other. Thus, a beautiful woman
like Anna really could decide to marry a fat, pug-nosed man like Mark, and
risk having fat, pug-nosed kids. This
lampooning its own glamour fetish---but of course with no intention of
really doing anything about it other than make fun of it.
We still want to look at pretty people, even if they are rotten at
Well, if you enjoy cynical comedy, this may well be your cup of tea.
But, especially if you happen to hold dear any personal religious
convictions, you’ll have to supply your own sugar.
“The Invention Of Lying” comes with its own bitter aftertaste.
This is Ron Salfen, “At The
Movies,” for 93-5 KICK-FM