The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

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Anya Geiling, Contributing Writer • April 30, 2024

Comedy Gets Depressing

Invention of Lying

Ricky Gervais’ and Matthew Robinson’s brainchild, The Invention of Lying, is a relatively dry comedy about a fictional world in which no one has ever lied. The film ventures even further into fiction when the main character, Mark Bellison (played by Gervais),
accidentally stumbles upon the idea of lying and affects the entire world as a result. Gervais’ masterful wit and
eye for the ironic are both present in this film of comedic
and dramatic proportions.

Although the movie is funny, the atheistic undertones are more distracting than amusing. The film could easily have een the light-hearted comedy it attempted to be if there were fewer references to death and the afterlife, which made it more depressing than uplifting.

Because Gervais’ character lives in a world without lies, he not-so-coincidentally lives in a world
without religion-until he creates religion through his lies. Even for the droves of non-believers, the constant allusions to the melancholy idea of imminent non-existence after death and the references to an afterlife as
a lie to justify unhappiness is a little too much to bear.
What is meant to be a romantic comedy, starring Jennifer Garner opposite Gervais, actually becomes a miserable retrospective look at society and belief
systems. At two separate points in the film, Gervais
dons a sheet and a Moses-esque beard and hairstyle and holds pizza boxes containing 10 things that people
need to know about the afterlife, which only reminds audiences how much they do not want to think about religion as a guise for fear or the impermanence of life.

Gervais’ deadpan humor is blisteringly sharp and funny,
but unfortunately it could not save the film. The attempt to expose society as one massive, mindless herd was over-the-top, even with the comedic tone.

It is hard to tell, however, if Gervais was poking fun at society in general, as a collective that is too
eager to believe what it is being told, or or if there would be no reason to doubt in a world without lies. Judging by the way the characters and plot are handled, it seems that it is the former.

One of the film’s highlights is the several surprising but equally ingenious cameos by talented
actors and actresses. Tina Fey is amusing as Gervais’ resentful secretary who cannot withhold her joy when faced with his removal. Jeffrey Tambour is just as funny as Gervais’ hesitant boss who is unwilling and unable to fire him.

Academy Award winner Phillip Seymour Hoffman is probably the most surprising and most
enjoyable addition to the cast, weighing in as Gervais’ bartender and friend. Jonah Hill, Edward Norton, Louis C.K. and Jason Bateman all receive big laughs from their minor roles. Jennifer Garner is also sweet and witty as
Gervais’ love interest, but harder to like than other
characters because of her character’s shallowness and pretentions, which is revealed through her
inability to lie.

Gervais’ ability to make miserable things funny backfired and transformed what was meant to be a comedy into a relatively funny, but fundamentally depressing film. The talented cast and amusing plot line did make for a solid film with several memorable quotes and entertaining scenes.

However, despite some of the strong points, what is taken away from the film is the memory of a less-than-hilarious film harshly commenting on the fabric of
society and the role religion plays within it. For
audience members expecting an easy laugh rather than a depressing, thought-provoking film, The Invention of
Lying does not deliver.

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