In Brief: A good liar but not a very good movie.
This is one of the most disappointing movies of 2019. And considering the considerable acting talent involved, and the quality of the director, define that disappointment as huge.
Helen Mirren is Betty. She’s a widow with considerable assets who decides to put herself back on the dating market. In her search, Betty decides to do a date with the very fascinating and quite slick Roy Courtany. He’s played by Ian McKellan who wowed us all as Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings movie series.
Both actors could play furniture in a movie and blow our minds.
That’s an odd statement but in the case of The Good Liar furniture and the accompanying wooden image best defines this movie and the quality of the acting. With almost nothing original to do, Mirren and McKellen are stuck uttered cliche lines in a plot that is as disingenuous as the two main characters.
McKellen’s Courtany is — of course — a scammer who makes his living stealing huge sums of money from not-so-bright victims. He’s also a violent man who thinks nothing of killing anyone getting in his way.
That might include Betty’s often intrusive and over-protective grandson.
Mirren’s Betty is just the opposite of Courtnay. She’s sweet, loving, somewhat gullible and the perfect target for Courtnay and his partner. It’s the sweetness that begins to tug at Courtnay’s close to non-existent conscience.
This is a set up for a perfect thriller but director Bill Condon isn’t quite able to get there. This, too, is a disappointment. He’s usually quite brilliant. Condon did Disney’s live version of Beauty and the Beast, the highly thought of Dreamgirls and won an Oscar the Gods and Monsters screenplay in 1998.
Proving that no one is perfect, Condon also did the last two Twilight movies.
The Good Liar adds to that proof. What almost saves Condon is Mirren and McKellan. They could — again — play furniture and win award nominations. Mirren and McKellan manage to be incredibly good in spite of a very lame, and way-too-predictable screenplay.
So if you want to see the movie just for the acting, go for it. In my book great acting is just not enough. A good liar — yes — a good movie? No.
Director: Bill Condon
Stars: Helen Mirren, Ian McKellen, Russell Tovey, Jim Carter, Mark Lewis Jones, Stefan Kalipha, Johannes Haukur Johannesso
Rated R for mature themes and some violence. Love the work of Mirren and McKellen but not much else. Such a predictable mess. No surprises not only means no surprises but it also means no fun. Give this a 2 1/2 on the Friday Flicks with Gary o to 5 scale.
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Gary Wolcott has been reviewing movies on radio, television and newspaper since 1990. He believes — and this is an estimate only — that he’s seen something close to 10,000 movies in his lifetime. Gary is a lifelong fan of films and catches a couple of hundred movies a year. He believes movies ought to be seen on the big screen and not on the small screen in your living room or family room. While he loves movies, he also says reviewing film can be a real sacrifice and that he sees many movies so you don’t have to.
He is one of KXL 101.1 FM’s film critics and joined the news staff in 2014. Gary is also the film critic for Tri-Cities, Washington’s Tri-City Herald.