Director Bill Condon’s new thriller ‘The Good Liar’ (based on Nicholas Searle’s novel of the same name) is a mixed bag. It boasts terrific performances by Dame Helen Mirren and Sir Ian McKellen, and puts forth a plot that is somewhat engaging, at least for the first two thirds of the film.
Roy Courtnay (McKellen), a career con man, meets Betty McLeish (Mirren) on a dating website for the elderly and they begin a relationship that is said to be more about companionship than romance. Still, the two become very close rather quickly, and it’s only Betty’s grandson Steven (Russell Tovey) that is suspicious of Roy’s true intentions.
As mentioned above, McKellen and Mirren are electric in the film. Their chemistry is palpable, and despite having never worked together before, these two classically trained thespians are clearly having fun working together. While the movie doesn’t have a whole lot of humour, most of it is provided by this pair, and its dry, British sensibility is quite enjoyable. Tovey offers a fairly strong performance, though his character often feels as though he’s actually slowing the plot down, rather than accelerating it. Jim Carter as Courtnay’s partner-in-crime Vincent is certainly adequate, even though he’s not given all that much to do.
On a technical level, the movie is solid. While (aside from the two lead performances) nothing really blew me away, the direction, cinematography, and editing were all strong. It is within the story where the film really falters.
I was never fully invested in the story, but the first two acts certainly had my attention. The humour, the tension, the deception, and this burgeoning relationship all kept me interested. Unfortunately, the third act completely fell apart for me. There is a reveal that was already heavily implied by the movie’s trailer, and it’s even more obvious when watching the film. While there were specific details that I didn’t see coming, the big mic drop was no surprise whatsoever.
Further, after the reveal, the audience is “treated” to an extended exposition dump – I wasn’t timing, but I don’t think that I’m exaggerating when I write that it was approximately 15 minutes of screen time – that ensures that nobody could be confused. It felt as though the director and screenwriter were screaming at the audience: “just in case we weren’t clear, here is EVERYTHING that is happening”. The pandering was both excessive, and maybe even a little offensive.
Once the reveal has been established, the movie doubles – and then triples – down on its motivations to a level that becomes nearly ridiculous.
Had the film been tepid and mediocre throughout, I don’t imagine it would have been so frustrating to me. But considering the fabulous performances and the fact that the first two acts had me fairly intrigued, the conclusion really left me cold and functioned as a disservice to all of the goodwill the movie had garnered with me up until that point.
- Release Date: 11/15/2019