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The Invention of Lying (2009)

Film review: The Invention of Lying (2009), written and directed by Ricky Gervais and Matthew Robinson

Picture some sort of alternate reality where people are unable to lie. In fact, they are so bluntly honest about everything that they don’t have religions or even films, because that’s make-believe, and they don’t even have that – only dull, uninspiring, fact-based lecture programmes.

Mark Bellison (Ricky Gervais) is one of the writers on these shows, and he doesn’t enjoy it. He fancies a woman, Anna McDoogles (Jennifer Garner), but she’ll only go out with him as a favour to someone else, because Mark is clearly not breeding material.

When he’s fired from his job and evicted from his apartment he discovers something he can do but no one else can: he can lie. As the one person lying in a world where everyone always speaks the truth, Mark decides to turn his life around … with some major, yet unintentional, consequences.

Also starring Jonah Hill as Frank, Louis C.K. as Greg, Fionnula Flanagan as Mark’s mum, Rob Lowe as Brad Kessler, Tina Fey as Shelley, and a whole host of cameos, including Jason Bateman as a doctor, Philip Seymour Hoffman as a Bartender, Edward Norton as a policeman and Stephen Merchant as the “Man at the Door”.

I wanted to post something of which Philip Seymour Hoffman was a part, and this was the only film in his filmography that was also on the list of films waiting to be reviewed, which is a shame because he only plays a very small part here, so there’s nothing much to say, sadly.

Anyway, I was supposed to talk about The Invention of Lying. It’s funny, it’s cute in parts, and it’s scathing in other parts. Considering part of the premise is that there are no religions because no one is able to lie … and as the film progresses, the Man In The Sky is invented … well, you get the idea. The only person in the world who is able to lie inadvertently invents both God and religion. Ouch.

The thing is, though, if you’re of the atheist persuasion like Mr Gervais (and indeed myself), you’ll just nod in agreement. Yes, religions are indeed fairytales made up to make people feel better, that’s what you’ve been saying all this time. So yeah. Well done, film, for illustrating that idea very well.

Say what you want about Ricky Gervais, but he certainly has his moments, and his Mark character is a nice, well-meaning guy. Rob Lowe’s character on the other hand is such a bad egg it’s hilarious, and poor Jennifer Garner is stuck in the middle.

In general, I think The Invention of Lying works. Brutal honesty sure has its place, but perhaps it’s just as well we’re able to lie when we need to. Then again maybe it’s fairer to tell your date s/he is not good breeding material rather than pretending you’re having a good time and then not phone them back? But maybe in nicer terms.

4 out of 5 Black Deaths.


An easily distracted Swedish introvert residing in Robin Hood Country (Nottingham, UK) with a husband and two cats. She's an eager participant in tabletop and play-by-post roleplaying, woodworking, photography and European travel, when there's not a plague on.

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