#REVIEW: “THE GOOD LIAR”
Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
Betty (Helen Mirren) is recently widowed and looking for companionship. She makes an online dating profile and matches with Roy (Ian McKellen). They meet for a date and are easily smitten with each other. Their relationship grows quickly and before long, Roy has moved in with her. But what Betty does not know is that Roy is a life-long con man – and she is his latest mark.
The Trailers for The Good Liar portrayed the Film as a clever and twisty cat-and-mouse Thriller in the vein of Alfred Hitchcock. And yes, portions of the Film are exactly as advertised. But what those Trailers do not suggest is the languished and exhausting pace the majority of Director Bill Condon’s Film moves at, favouring monotony over virtually anything else. He unpacks every moment, every detail and every feeling explicitly, allowing many scenes to go on endlessly – as if he was too afraid to stop McKellen and Mirren from doing their thing. When Condon does amp-up the thrills, he moves all too quick – ending the excitement and surprisingly brutal violence too soon. This is all deliberate of course and not entirely his fault (though I cannot imagine Nicholas Searle’s original Novel moves this glacially), but the Film could have been trimmed easily with very little effect on the final product.
What I found more interesting about The Good Liar were the wild twists contained within it. I will not dare spoil them or suggest what they involve, but one may go down as one of the strangest and oddest shifts I have ever witnessed in a film. I have seen many a film, but the sharp tonal pivot this one takes will leave you flabbergasted. My eyes are widened and my mind is boggled just trying to fathom its very existence. Condon leaves you a few bread crumbs to guide as to where it is going – including some really blatantly lingering moments that lack any and all subtlety. But no matter what idea you have built up in your head, there virtually is no way you will be able to predict what happens. And while that specific moment is not entirely earned, it is so outrageous that it is difficult to feel anything but admiration for its audacity.
Despite the Film’s issues, McKellen and Mirren are simply ravishing from start to finish. They both know exactly how trashy and lurid the Film around them is, but they never let on or pretend to care. Instead, they both dig deep into their characters and motivations and give the kind of astounding performances you would expect from these master Thespians. Their banter and chemistry are exquisite and fun to watch, rising above even the Film’s worst moments. McKellen does most of the heavy lifting and practically has a spring in his step from how delighted he is bringing this con man to life. Both performances are great, but they deserved a much better film.
The Good Liar is not a bad film by any measure, but it is not much of a good one either. The pacing is much too exhausting for its own good, and some of the outrageous twists are a little too much to handle. But McKellen and Mirren are both terrific here, rising above the material to put in two well-rounded performances that are worth watching all on their own.
Warner Bros. Pictures Canada release THE GOOD LIAR on Friday, November 15, 2019.