In Brief: Lots of unrealized potential but The Lie just never, quite gets there.
The Lie is a Blumhouse Productions thriller that was introduced at the Toronto International Film Festival in September of 2018. After sitting on the shelf for awhile, Amazon picked up the distribution rights and It’s just now being released to the rest of the world.
So what’s that tell ya? The general rule is that movies sitting for that length of time pretty much suck.
What’s unfortunate is the story has potential and it could have been very good. Mom and dad are divorced. It’s his time with the kid. He’s taking her to a musical event when she sees a friend standing by the side of the road. She pleads with dad to pick her up. Reluctantly, he does. A few miles up the road, the girl says her bladder is busting and needs some relief.
Dad lets her and the daughter out. They run into the woods and don’t come back for a long time. He starts looking for them and finds his daughter sitting on the rail of a bridge that crosses a roaring river by a waterfall. She tells her dad that she deliberately pushed her friend off of the rail and into the raging river.
That sets first dad and then mom to covering up their daughter’s crime. It’s an intriguing scenario that asks a good question. What would you do? After all, your daughter is just 15, no one knows the girl was picked up and no one knows this and no one knows that.
Great questions that flop in a film that fails to give its characters anything resembling three dimensions.
Like all movie plans, when characters practice to deceive, things get movie complicated. In this case the complications are from stupid things the girl does and the stupid things her parents do to save her skin.
In this case the stupid things are eye-rolling stupid. You’ll find it almost impossible to believe that people as obviously intelligent as this man and woman could be that dense. Worse, it’s hard to like people as shallow as the two parents and as shallow as their daughter.
That’s deliberate. However, you do want to feel something for the poor parents torn between loyalty and love for their daughter and the reality that they really ought to do the right thing and tell the truth.
Unfortunately, these characters are so superficial, and the screenplay is so poorly written and executed that you don’t feel anything for any of them. You don’t even feel badly about the dead girl or her stressed out dad when he comes knocking early in the lying phase.
Golden Globe nominees Peter Sarsgaard and Mireille Enos star as the parents and Joey King —also a Golden Globe nominee — star as their daughter. They’re all exceptionally good. King is the best of the bunch as she bounces between a teen torn to pieces over what she’s done and a kid who can’t be bothered with the details.
It’s chilling and oh, so sociopathic.
A lot of praise also goes to Sarsgaard (An Education, Shattered Glass) and Enos (TV’s The Killing). They do the best they can with an ugly story packed with facile people, and one that bounces for way too long down an ugly road toward a really ugly and not all that surprising climax.
The film is written and directed by Veena Sud (2016’s The Salton Sea). She bases it on a Wir Monsters, a German film done in 2015. It is — along with a bunch of others done about the same time — based on the murder of Meredith Kercher. That’s the woman Amanda Knox is accused of murdering.
If it’s based on that, I failed to see the similarity. Worse, is a failure to see any point to the movie at all.
Director: Veena Sud
Stars: Peter Sarsgaard, Mireille Enos, Cas Anvar, Patti Kim, Nicholas Lea, Dani Kind, Devery Jacobs
Rated R for mature themes and some violence. This one has such potential and features some terrific acting but The Lie just lies there for most of its 90-plus minutes. Too bad. It coulda been so much better. Give The Lie a 1 on my 0 to 5 scale.
The Lie can be found on view on demand on Amazon Prime Video.
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.