Photo courtesy of AP Images. Actors Sir Ian McKellen and Dame Helen Mirren pose for photographers upon arrival at the photo call of ‘The Good Liar’ at a central London hotel, Oct. 30, 2019.
BY GAIL PISCHAK
The title of this movie, ‘The Good Liar,’ gives the plot away. You know there’s going to be a con by at least one of the stars. You know the stakes are high, and the conman, in typical fashion, is a slick, lying, charming dude. After the first two scenes, you know it’s a double con, but it takes almost the entire movie to figure it out motivation.
With such stellar actors as an academy award winner, Helen Mirren, who plays a wealthy, sickly widowed Betty McLeish, and celebrated Ian McKellen, playing the devilishly charming Roy Courtney, you would hope it had a better than average chance of being an excellent movie.
Sadly, while there is familiar chemistry between these two master actors, everything else about this movie is simply…well…average.
Take the plot, for instance. The movie opens up with a series of scenes where Courtney and McLeish enter false information on a dating site. Promising start. It’s something we can all relate to. They meet, disclose they were both fibbing about their history and then begin again, with questionable honestly about who they are. In turns out, they are both very good at lying…throughout the entire movie.
It goes downhill from there. Courtney wants to swindle McLeish out of her fortune. In a familiar plotline, he falls for this lovely senior but pushes his feelings aside because money is more important than love.
McLeish also has an agenda with this charming rogue, although we don’t learn how dark her con is until the third act of the movie. It turns out to be a competition that can be more devious, more calculating, and in some cases, crueler. Shockingly, its McLeish who wins in all categories.
The plot is very slow for the first two-thirds of the movie. And the plot is thin and, in some places, not credible. There aren’t a lot of subplots that add richness and texture. It’s all straight-line without enough clever twists and turns. That’s why even at 109 minutes it still seems too long…there’s not enough believable content to keep us engaged for almost two hours.
While the film does an excellent job of explaining McLeish’s backstory and her motivation, the movie doesn’t attempt to explain why Courtney became such a bad apple. The only hint we get is that he was always mean spirited and cruel even as a child. The lack of a backstory for Courtney does negatively affect the movie because we never really understand why he does what he does.
There are too many loose ends for the plot to succeed. Courtney fakes a bad leg and walks with a cane to endear himself to McLeish and move in with her, but somewhere mid-movie, the cane disappears, and there are several scenes where we see a robust Courtney sprinting. Even when justice is “rendered” by movies end, the audience is left with more questions than satisfactory answers.
The cinematography is dark….dark sets, dark clothes, dark lighting…everything is dark and under light. It gets annoying after a while.
Except for Mirren, McKellen and Jim Carter, who plays Vincent, the acting is weak, and character development is minimal. The movie’s ending does not satisfy…and frankly, it doesn’t make sense. Many other endings could have tied everything else much better.
The best liar in the movie is the person who convinced two heavyweights to work on such a lightweight film. Do yourself a favor. Take a pass on this one and save it for a Netflix release.
This movie deserves a 2 out of 5. Enough Said.
Cast: Helen Mirren, Ian McKellen, Jim Carter, Russell Tovey, Lily Dodsworth-Evans, Johannes Haukur Johannesson, Mark Lewis Jones, Phil Dunster, Michael Cultrin, Nell Williams
Director: Bill Condon
Running Time: 109 minutes
Release Date: Nov. 15, 2019
Distributed by: Warner Brothers Pictures
Gail Pischak is a second-semester film student who wants to make short documentaries. Her hobbies are movies, movies, movies.