It's a world where everyone tells the truth - and just about anything they're thinking. Mark Bellison is a screenwriter, about to be fired. He's short and chunky with a flat nose - a genetic setup that means he won't get to first base with Anna, the woman he loves. At a bank, on the spur of the moment he blurts out a fib, with eye-popping results. Then, when his mother's on her deathbed, frightened of the eternal void awaiting her, Mark invents fiction. The hospital staff overhear his description of Heaven, believe every word, and tell others. Soon Mark is a prophet, his first inventive screenplay makes him rich, and he's basically a good guy. But will that be enough for Anna? Written by
Although this world has no concept of imagination, religion or gods, Mark refers to the planet "Mars." This name comes from the Roman god of war who would have never been made up. The planet would have been called something unimaginative like "Red Planet" or "4th Planet." See more »
On a scale of one to Casablanca, this film is a "Oh, God!" (1977
I like comedies like this. They don't rely on big budgets or snide, lowbrow humor. They get by on wit alone. "The Invention of Lying" (2009) is about just what the title says its about. It takes place in a universe where lying simply does not exist. Everybody says what is exactly on their minds all the time. For instance, when Mark Bellison (Ricky Gervais) picks up Anna (Jennifer Garner) for a first date, she promptly tells Mark that he's short, unattractive, and she's not looking forward to this date.
This is a universe peopled with trusting citizens. Skepticism does not exist. Nor does naïveté, because in a world where no one lies, there is nothing to be naïve about. If you are fat and dumb you are called fat and dumb by whoever is thinking about you.
And so we follow Mark Bellison throughout his sad daily routine. He is fired from his job as a screen writer for a movie company that produces feature length films of people reciting history, because fiction is a lie of course. His secretary (Tina Fey) admits she has loathed every day she works for him. He visits his mother at a nursing home, otherwise known as "A Sad Place Where Homeless Old People Come to Die." And finally his landlord evicts him.
When Mark goes to the bank to take out the last $300 in his account sparks fly in his brain. He lies to the bank teller saying he actually has $800 in his account. She gives him the money and Mark wakes up to the power of his new discovery. He has invented lying.
In one hilarious scene, Mark tests out his new powers on his barfly friend and a bartender, claiming he invented the bicycle and a slew of other outrageous assertions. The bartender and barfly believe his every word.
The most interesting aspect of this movie is its implications for religion. When Mark's mother is dying at the "Sad place " she confides to her son that she fears the nothingness of death. Now, capable of lying Mark tells his mother that when she dies she will be in a good place with her own mansion and everyone she ever loved. In effect, Mark creates the notion of heaven. A doctor and nurse overhear this description and believing him, they spread the word of Mark's revelation and soon he becomes an international prophet. This whole premise is hysterical and actually somewhat subversive.
But eventually the film changes gears and becomes more of a rudimentary romantic comedy with Mark trying to win the heart of Anna without having to manipulate her with lies. She, of course, doesn't want Mark because he wouldn't be a good genetic fit for her children. Anna prefers the handsome and narcissistic Brad Kessler (Rob Lowe). While this story line is still funny, I preferred the religion plot more and wish they had followed it deeper.
"The Invention of Lying" is getting at something though it doesn't state it explicitly. Instead of an analysis of the negative or positive effects of lying, it is really a study of the various layers of truth embedded in all things. Admittedly, I didn't like the romantic story, but I did appreciate Anna's realization that truth cuts deeper than superficial, initial reactions. Anna never discovers what lying is, but she does find that truth is not immutable. The truth changes as we change.
On a scale of one to Casablanca, this film is a "Oh, God!" (1977).
This film is more like a comedic episode of the Twilight Zone than a typical comedy. I always find it impressive when a film digs deeper than it has to, no matter how slight that extra digging may be. "The Invention of Lying" is well done, enjoyable, and funny. By the end of the film you know why there are so many notable cameo parts for so many big name actors. Everyone wants to help a comedy like this. Ricky Gervais has proved his staying power as actor, writer, director in England and now he seems to be working on America. To him, I say 'Godspeed.'
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