The Invention of Lying (2009) focuses on the life of Mark Bellison (Ricky Gervais), a terrible screenwriter whose most distinguishing feature is his snub nose. When it comes to genetics, Mark has not been dealt as generous a hand as his co-worker, Brad Kessler (Rob Lowe). However, Mark can do something that Brad cannot, which is lie. The world in which they live is brutally honest. Everyone says what they mean, feel, and think without the soft cushion of some falsification. After Mark uses his new found skill to get money at the bank, he tells a more significant lie to his dying mom; there is life after death. Once he understands that he does not have to tell the truth all the time, he begins using it to his advantage.
The only taboo for Mark is lying to Anna McDoogles (Jennifer Garner), the love of his life. She is completely out of his league, but she finds a charm to Mark that no one else quite sees. Yet despite this, she refuses to allow herself to be with him, because he is not a good genetic match for her and her potential offspring. True to form, Brad swoops in and steals Anna from Mark. It is not until Brad and Anna are on the altar that she realizes that she wants “short fat kids with snub noses” with Mark.
The success of this film comes in its cleverness. For instance, because fiction does not exist, Mark and Brad do not write fake story lines. Instead, their screenplays are sentences of facts. Mark prefers to write about the Black Plague, for instance. The comedy in this film is not laugh out loud, but rather drier and wittier, typical of many British comedians and scribes. In addition, Gervais, Garner, Lowe, and the rest of the all star cast, including Tina Fey, Jeffrey Tambor, and Jonah Hill, give great performances.
The complexity of the issues the film brings forth, telling the truth vs. lying, doing what you want vs. doing what is expected, religion, the way information spreads, keeps this film from being a typical romantic comedy. Instead, it gives the plot some substance. Unfortunately, it is unclear exactly what the message of the movie actually is. There seems to be some necessity in lying. However, Mark only gets what he truly wants by being truthful. The film displays the slippery slope one encounters whenever a lie is told. However, the ultimate statement the film is trying to make on this subject is not merely subtle, it is underdeveloped.