TIFF: ‘The Invention of Lying’ – Good Concept, Poor Execution

Published 6 years ago by

invention of lying TIFF: The Invention of Lying   Good Concept, Poor Execution

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.

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  1. The Office was brilliant, so I can more than understand his success. Extras was, even if not as good, still great. His podcasts and radio shows with Stephen Merchant and Karl Plinkinton are no less than hilarious for me, and I find his stand up acts quite good too. Now Ghost Town was just entertaining but he didn’t write/direct it, so I expect more of this one, even though i think he should stick to the small screen rather than Hollywood.

  2. Didn’t care for the Office but I liked his stand-up, observation humour mainly but quite intelligent at times as well. I think a lot of his appeal is his everyman image, not many in Hollywood look like people you meet in real life so maybe that’s his edge?

    As you say comedy is a personal thing, in the Python series there was as much dross as gold imo.

  3. @chris

    If you don’t agree with someone’s opinion that doesn’t automatically make them an idiot. After all, he can use capitals and punctuation… ;)

  4. John Foote,

    Could you elaborate a little on this comment:
    “he does little else right as a director here.”


  5. That read more as a review of Ricky Gervais than it did a review of a movie. I thought a reviewer reviewed the movie and didn’t let his disdain, and yes it came across as disdain to me, of a person interfere with his take on a film?

  6. Ricky Gervais is a very funny man and all his shows are great. If you don’t like him then that’s fine but do a review on the damn film next time instead of him.

  7. If you don’t get Ricky Gervais, then you most likely won’t enjoy a film that he wrote, directed and starred in.

    This was a bad review.

  8. On Gervais — comedy is easily the most personal of film genres, and something that is different to each of us — an examaple, if you are walking down the street and fall, I am going to laugh out loud, I cannot help it, but those around me may not think it is funny — I find “The Life of Brian” to be hysterically funny, but my wife looks at me like I am from Mars as she hates it — I do not find Gervais funny…at all — I do not deny his talents, there are obviously those who like him very much, I am just not one of them — as for the review, I admit I did tend to review Gervais more than the film, but on the other hand, Gervais puts so much of himself in the film (keep in mind he is also co-directing)that I grew tired of him, therefore the film, very quickly — for the record Rob Lowe is quite good, and Jennifer Garner is wonderful as always — the film, stinks, and I still don’t find Gervais funny. To attack me for having an opinion is beyomnd idiotic, after all, we are all film critics are we not?

  9. And Lowe is quite good despite having no character written for him — could Gervais have done that??

  10. I don’t find this a valid review because you don’t like the star/writer to begin with, so this is more like you just venting. I think people would prefer a review from someone less biased against the subject matter.

    Comedy is a very subjective thing, you’re right. And Monty Python is not everyone’s favorite cheese shop. (Happens to be one of mine.)

  11. JF,

    I inquired about what was wrong with his directing. Im fine with your opinion and happy that at least you put across the point you are not to found of his comedy.