Recently, my boyfriend asked me to think of a movie that we could watch together like we do almost every Saturday night. He wished for something light and fun and I had no idea which one to pick since we had already watched lots of comedies. Of the two of us, he’s the movie buff, not me.
In that moment I was watching a YouTube clip of Ricky Gervais laughing on the programme ‘An Idiot Abroad’ (I really recommend hearing his laugh… it will either make you piss with laughter or drive you nuts!) and I thought: since we’re both fans of Gervais’ tv shows, why not give a try to the first movie that he has directed? This is The Invention of Lying, which he has also scripted and produced.
The movie takes place in the apparent modern world where Mark Bellison (Gervais), a scriptwriter of historical lecture-like films, is preparing himself to go on a date with the pretty and successful Anne McDoogles (Jennifer Garner). He arrives at her place and she greets him with the straightforward assertion that she is not attracted to him because of his looks and his financial situation. Yes, that is what she really says, it’s not just a thought going through her head, as we see Mark meekly accepting her statements. This happens because the film is set in an alternate reality where everybody tells the truth and lies do not exist.
Hence we see an immaculate world free from deceiving persons, where anyone says whatever is on their mind without any filters. Those who are sure of themselves are unknowingly offensive, like Anna and Mark’s co-workers (Rob Lowe and Tina Fey), while others go on about their losses in life in a rather matter-of-fact way, such as Greg (Louis C. K.) and Mark’s suicidal neighbour Frank (Jonah Hill).
Mark, however, seems weary of being the loser in every situation. A series of misfortunes hit him until they lead him to a point where something in his brain snaps and he conceives the world’s first lie. And we know what happens when you lie and get rewarded for it, right? Mark acquires the taste for lying and goes on to transform his life radically. Until one day, at his dying mother’s bedside, he tells one major lie that is overheard by third persons and spreads around like wildfire. It not only affects Mark’s life, it also shakes up the lives of the whole world’s population.
This amusing plot twist serves as a jab at religion and that is what made me love this movie so much. One cannot expect any different from Gervais, a vocal atheist who doesn’t stop himself from making blunt statements against religion. In an alternate reality where no one tells lies, it was already implied that there were no religions. Mark’s latest series of lies are the basis of a new religion, one that mocks Christianity. The scene outside Mark’s house where he is explaining a set of ten rules (the Commandments) pasted onto pizza boxes to an audience of random strangers is simply hilarious. He becomes the preaching priest trying to convince (and eventually scaring into believing his rules) the natural-born atheists – who are actually very naive as no one has ever imagined that someone could lie to them.
Another topic that often featured in the conversations between Mark and Anna was genetics. Anna is always shown worried about marrying Mark and having babies that might turn out fat and big-nosed like him, hence her reluctance with going steady with him even when she’s falling for him. This kind of implies that in a world where only truth exists, the focus is on matters that are usually overshadowed by lofty sentiments of love. Because really, how many people are there in our reality who forsake a loving relationship in fear of genetic defects? Anyone who voices out such thoughts would probably come off as an asshole!
This movie is ideal for and highly recommended to atheists, agnostics and any open-minded individuals with a good sense of humour and who are not overly sensitive on matters of spirituality and religion. Don’t be deceived by the movie poster and the premise of the film; despite seeming like the usual rom-com, it is not typical Hollywood material. It is intelligent and gives way to some serious pondering about our reality and how humanity has evolved.
Who was the first man who ever lied and how did humans evolve into such deceptive creatures? Would the world have turned out better if lying did not exist? I wonder… let’s all take a moment and think about it, shall we?