I just don’t get Ricky Gervais.
I don’t find him funny, nor do I think him to be particularly talented. I do not understand his recent success at all, nor do I understand how he has been given a film to direct when thousands of young film students are dying to make a first film. To me he’s a one note comic struggling to stay alive opposite the actors he is working with. In his new film The Invention of Lying he is smarmy and superior to everyone around him, and I guess that is supposed to be funny. OK, fine, but not to me, and comedy remember is very personal.
So I get that what is funny to you will not be to me and what I like, you may not. I remember showing my wife The Life of Brian years ago, and while I was howling with laughter, she was looking at me like I was out of my mind.
In The Invention of Lying, which Gervais co-directed and co-wrote, lying has not yet been invented, meaning everyone, and I mean everyone – tells the truth. Thus a blind date may greet their date with brutal honesty and rather than use small talk may hit them hard with whatever truth they are thinking at that moment in time. Beautiful people hang out with each other, and if someone less than attractive tries to invade their world, they are reminded (and in a hurry) just what they look like. Then one day, Mark (Gervais) happens upon a brilliant idea: He lies. And he keeps lying and suddenly everything he desires is closer to him than ever before, within his reach. Everything goes his way – the woman he wants begins to fall for him, and he becomes famous. Of course by the end of the film it will all unravel.
While I give Gervais credit for creating a strange world where the truth rules (it feels far stranger than you might imagine), he does little else right as a director here.
The lovely Jennifer Garner is the film’s saving grace, and is delightful. Rob Lowe has no character to work with, and Gervais, obviously seeing this as a star-making vehicle, becomes grating very quickly. I like comedies as much as the next guy, but I like my comedy nasty, intelligent, or Woody Allen. The single greatest American comedy ever made remains Tootsie with Chaplin’s City Lights and Modern Times close behind.
The Invention of Lying is not even a blip on the radar screen of comedy.