Lying, searching for meaning

Yaamini Venkataraman

"The Invention of Lying" proves to have a great idea behind it, but gets lost in the over-ambitious plot

 Welcome to an alternate reality, where everyone speaks the unfiltered truth. Of course, that means there are random strangers walking all over the streets calling each other "dangerously obese" and "downright unappealing", because it’s the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help them God.

In that world we find Mark Bellison (Ricky Gervais), who is, frankly, a loser. Because he is "chubby with a snub nose" according to the rest of the world, he is at the bottom of the social ladder, constantly insulted by his colleagues Shelly (Tina Fey) and Brad Kessler (Rob Lowe). Even when he goes on a first date with Anna McDoogles (Jennifer Garner), his unsightly looks and unappealing financial situation prove to be a setback. Fired from his job as a lecture-film writer and evicted from his apartment, he goes to the bank to withdraw the little money has. Upon hearing that the bank’s computer system is down, an idea surges through his brain and he tells the world’s first lie.  Ricky Gervais plays Mark Bellison, the man who invents lying in an alternate reality where people only speak the truth. Photo taken from Warner Bros.



You would think that Gervais would have directed, produced, written, narrated and starred in a better movie considering the fact that he is the award-winning co-creator of "The Office", but "Invention" comes short of expectations. The idea is not bad—I would love to hear about an unlucky sap dabbling in lies, but the plot that accompanies the idea is over-ambitious.



It begins with the title, "The Invention of Lying". Upon hearing such a title, one would expect to see a movie in which a man discovers the act of lying, has a little fling, then lives happily ever after. But no. Instead, the story gets tangled in a mess of confusion in which Bellison’s invention of lying springs up new concepts of "the man in the sky" and religion. In this world where only absolute truth exists, the concept of faith and religion are nowhere to be found. After a quick story about a pleasant afterlife to his dying mother, Bellison is looked at like a prophet, who brings some higher knowledge to the table. Immediately, the story takes a sharp turn, and we are lost in the "Invention of the Man in the Sky".



This makes the plot even more confusing. It is understood that lying is messy, but no one would think that it would get this messy. As Bellison explores the power he holds with his lies, he is forced to continue the snowball effect of lying by telling lie after lie for things to make even an inkling of sense not only for the people, but for the viewers. With each lie told, the movie gets more tangled in its own ambition that the original tagline, "In a world where everyone can only tell the truth, this guy can lie," starts to lose meaning. 



But the movie didn’t begin in clarity. Bellison only invents lying towards the end of the first third of the movie, shrouding the rest of his actions in obscurity. The movie drags on so slowly that even with the dry humor brutal honesty brings, "comedy" seems like no way to classify it. And when it comes to Bellison’s revelation, the moment is not built up, save for a cheesy Jimmy Neutron-esque brain blast image.




Even though this film centers around Bellison, it does involve quite a bit of romance between Bellison and McDoogles. McDoogles initially goes on a date with him because she is afraid of being alone for the rest of her life, and at the end of the date, tells him that his appearance and finnancial situation are poor, and they can never be together. But as the movie progresses, she starts to fall for him, but denies her feelings. The whole idea behind a woman trying to expose her true feelings brings a genuine touch to the movie, but this gold nugget is cast aside by the rest of Bellison’s "inventions".



But with all that boggling your mind, the concept of the movie is simple. Man gets sad. Man lies. Man feels happy. It almost makes you feel like lying. But then again, I wouldn’t want to go inventing another man in the sky.