The Invention of Lying review

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Ricky Gervais: comedy genius whose delivery can make anything funny… Or smug one-trick pony whose best days are behind him?

The way you feel about the man who brought us The Office will determine your enjoyment/endurance of a high-concept comedy that flirts with brilliance but ultimately never gets beyond its pitch.

So here it is: in a world where no one can lie, what would happen if “fat, snub-nosed loser” Mark (Gervais) was suddenly able to fib? Could he get the out-of-his-league girl (Jennifer Garner) and soften the harsh realities of life with white lies?

Scripted by newcomer Matthew Robinson, this Truman Show-esque thought-provoker was snapped up by Gervais (credited as co-director/writer) and polished into a keen study of social cruelties and human nature. It’s also now a vehicle for Ricky’s patented unfinished, uncomfortable sentences and that rising squeak of humiliation.

On his blog, Mr G reckons Lying is for those who are “smart with a good sense of humour”. Which is a good summary of the film. It is original, smart and humorous in its satirical barbs at religion, advertising and social niceties (dates are painfully honest, waiters admit to sipping your drinks and care homes are “sad places for old people”).

It’s also stacked with knowing cameos (Stephen Merchant, Barry off EastEnders), while Gervais offers a moment of genuine, heartfelt drama at a hospital bedside that’s as affecting as it is surprising.

But Lying is a one-note joke that’s loaded with product placement and betrays Gervais’ own discomfort at playing outside his schtick – the ‘romance’ with Garner is as coy as they come. Fact.

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Editor-in-Chief, Total Film

Jane Crowther is the Editor of Total Film magazine and the Editor-in-Chief of the Film Group here at Future Plc, which covers Total Film, SFX, and numerous TV and women's interest brands. Jane is also the vice-chair of The Critics' Circle and a BAFTA member. You'll find Jane on GamesRadar+ exploring the biggest movies in the world and living up to her reputation as one of the most authoritative voices on film in the industry.