Where the Truth Lies Review
SEX! Now that I have your attention I'll continue with the review. Working in a university I see this type of blatant over selling on leaflets posted on notice boards everywhere. As a species we are conditioned to procreate, it's a biological need that we have no control over, even the very word is enough to turn heads, hence the notices and the rather lurid opening to this review. The simple fact is sex sells. Everything from cars to toothpaste if there is a hint if sexuality, there is enough to gain our interest. It's a fact filmmakers have employed for years, it's also a fact that there has never been a bad trailer for a film. It's the trailer makers' job to ensure that the film sells, no matter how bad it might be, or how misleading they might turn out. Take, for example, the trailer for tonight's feature Where The Truth Lies; if you believe the hype you will be greeted with a sexually charged thriller with enough sex, murder and intrigue to fulfil any appetite. Yes it contains sex scenes, and some full frontal nudity; yes there is a murder; and I could even stretch to saying there is some passing intrigue, but they are not the focus of the film, as the trailer would have you believe. Rather it is a dark complex character study with noir-esque overtones, certainly adult in nature but not sordid.
It's the late nineteen fifties, Lanny Morris (Kevin Bacon) and Vince Collins (Colin Firth), a singing comedy double act, are at the top of their game. Out of respect to their slight mob ties the pair agrees to headline the opening of a new club in Atlantic City even though they would have just finished a thirty nine hour telethon in aid of polio charities in Miami. Problems arise when a naked girl is found dead in the bath of the boys' hotel room the night they arrive. The subsequent mystery remained unanswered but it did spell the end of their working relationship. Fifteen years later Karen O'Connor (Alison Lohman) a journalist specialising in celebrity stories is writing a book about the duo's fame and fortune with particular attention to the night the girl was discovered and the sensational impact it had then and its unsolved mystery now. She herself has a vestige interest in Morris and Collins, as she was particular fans of theirs; she was a participant in the fated telethon. In researching the book she discovers the true nature of the comics and finds a few things out about herself as she delves deeper and deeper to find the truth using any motivation she can.
Director Atom Egoyan, best known for his more cerebral, art house films, has taken Rupert Holmes' original novel and treated it to his own interpretation, removing the more 'trashy' elements in favour of a more character driven story. Having said that the film reads very much like a book; Egoyan uses twin time lines and flashbacks (sometimes within) flashbacks to tell his story separating the different times by use of cinematography and character. The fifties segments are very soft focus and lurid, the characters though slightly unpleasant are redeemable; when it comes to the seventies the focus is that much sharper, colours vibrant, in contrast to the characters that are so much darker. The focus is allegorical to the memory and to the now, the lighting to showcase just how far the characters have sunk. It is a neat visual trick helped amiably by the performances of the principle characters. Lohman gives a good strong performance as the journalist that makes some mistakes for her job; her vulnerability is underplayed as her hero-worship gives way to realisation and eventual hardness especially when she is so close to the truth and is threatened by blackmail by Collins; even the hurt is in her eyes as she comes to see these two for what they really are is plain to see. Bacon manages to portray a thoroughly odious character with a charm that actually could make women fall at his feet, in the characters words “the hardest job is to play the nice guy when you are not” and that comes through in his performance. Firth plays perhaps the darkest character of his career to immediate effect; the 'respectable' half of the comic duo, he is a bag of angst and anger brought about by his repressed sexuality; this burst outwards in a vicious attack on a heckler that had the misfortune to insult his partner, and again when his attempt at blackmail failed. Special mention must go to David Hayman who plays the small but pivotal role of Reuben, Morris' bodyguard. In what I consider the best performance of the film; he is a bag of nerves, barely able to meet the eyes of the people he talks too, but in his final scene he betrays the insanity behind those eyes. It is the interaction of these complicated characters that drives the film forward, nothing is quite what it seems as the plot twists and turns but with one goal in mind, the discovery of the truth.
Egoyan had a huge battle with the MPAA and the certificate they decided upon, he even went back to the editing room to see if there was a way around it; but to no avail, so like any decent director worth his salt released the film as he intended it to be seen. The main problem was with the sex scenes, more specifically the drug induced lesbianism and the ménage a trios again with drug use. Granted these scenes are explicit, but not graphic or exploitative. It is a shame that the advertising pushed these scenes so readily when the real meat of the film is watching the characters unravel as we get closer to the truth of that fatal night. It is an engaging story and it is well told, I found it a satisfying watch. Egoyan manages to keep up the pace and throws enough clues to keep us engaged without giving anything away. Even without all the sex this film is still a satisfying watch.