By Eric Villanueva ’11
Was lying the summation of years of scientific observations and experiments, or the brainchild of an intellectual prodigy?
Neither. Average Mark Bellison stumbles upon the quintessential truth, or untruth, of honesty in this season’s first comedy “The Invention of Lying,” in theaters since Oct. 2.
Co-directed and co-written by Ricky Gervias and Matthew Robinson, this inspired parable set in a parallel universe begins when Gervais, who plays Mark Bellison, a washed-up screenwriter, turns his life around with “the greatest discovery of human history:” the lie.
In this world where there is no word for truth or lie – Bellison can only describe it as “saying something that wasn’t” – Gervais and Robinson take this tall tale to even taller comedic heights.
Before his great discovery of lying, Mark Bellison is a fat, snub-nosed, average guy who lives in an outrageously truthful world where a beautiful, yet candid date Anna (Jennifer Garner) is quick to point out the incompatibility of the pair.
In this world, everyone (except for Mark) tells the truth, including Mark’s sharp-tongued secretary (Tina Fey) and advertising executives for big companies: “Pepsi, When They Don’t Have Coke.”
But, when Mark is fired as a screenwriter of historical movies – he cannot write a fascinating screenplay about the thirteenth century – he stumbles upon the power of the fib, which changes his life.
In the last 30 minutes, the film focuses on an apparent, drawn-out Gervais-Garner relationship, which is ruined by its out-of-step seriousness alongside the satirical nonsense of the rest of the movie.
The first 30 minutes of the film are full of laugh-out-loud hilarity with jokes, puns and comical allusions literally in each line.
The laughs, increasingly spaced out as the movie continues, are well-deserved as Gervais and Robinson have normal, everyday people blurt out whatever is on their mind, despite how embarrassing or rude. The signage also offers sight gags as a nursing home advertises itself as “a sad place for hopeless old people” and “odds favor the house” cover the walls of a casino.
On the surface, it reflects a hybrid of a British-American comedy helped along by Fey, Jonah Hill, Louis C.K., Jeffery Tambor, Rob Lowe, Martin Starr, Jimmi Simpson, Edward Norton, Jason Bateman and Christopher Guest.
Deeper down, a no-one turned hero works to improve people’s lives with the unsightly gift of dishonesty; a complexity lost in summer comedies, like Will Farrell’s “Land of the Lost.”
Overall, “The Invention of Lying” is a must-see comedy this season. No lie.