“Alcoholism is a good idea taken too far,” says Melanie (Leslie Hope), the character at the heart of director Jerry Ciccoritti’s new film, Lie Exposed. You see, Melanie is a recovering alcoholic who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, so we can forgive the character for her insensitive bon mot.
When the film begins, Melanie has already started drinking again and ditched her loving husband Frank (Bruce Greenwood) to travel to Los Angeles. Jeff Kober’s script does plenty of time-jumping, so things get a touch confusing. Chronologically speaking, Melanie gets sober after hooking up with a tintype photographer (Jeff Kober) in LA who shoots her in a revealing style.
Once sober, Melanie heads back to Toronto and her hubby Frank. The couple stage an art exhibition made up of the intimate tintype photographs of Melanie’s vagina taken back in LA. The provocative work sparks a host of responses from the exhibition’s guests, and the film follows several different couples’ reactions to the photographs. A few are moved, some are challenged, and others are forced to confront uncomfortable truths in their own relationships.
At times, Lie Exposed comes across like a more coherent version of the Terrence Malick formula. Expect time-jumping, voice-over, and plenty of navel-gazing. One moment we’re in an art gallery, and the next we’re looking at a pensive Melanie standing on a rooftop admiring a sunset as her husky voice-over waxes on existentially.
Melanie’s philosophical questions usually occur as the film jumps back and forth in time. Lie Exposed isn’t easy to follow at first, mostly because the story switches between several different couples, each of them working through some complicated feelings. But things make more sense the further you get into the story once it’s clear how all the separate pieces fall into the larger narrative puzzle.
Take a pass on Lie Exposed if you’re not into arthouse dramas. This is a slow and thoughtful movie about people talking through their emotional hang-ups. Since the story touches on so many characters, it never slows down to focus on anyone. Most of the characters could use more fleshing out.
I wasn’t emotionally invested in anyone in this film, and I didn’t find the performances relatable or convincing (aside from Greenwood, who imbues each scene with a soulful dad-energy). The appeal of a movie like Lie Exposed is that the audience experiences what it’s like to be a fly on the wall. The premise feels like passing someone on the street and catching part of an intriguing conversation.
Rocco Matteo’s production design creates a world that feels meticulously crafted but not lived in, and I think this choice works in an odd sort of way. The people in this film feel like mouthpieces for certain ideals instead of well-rounded characters. And watching them interact in cold, clinical environments made me think I was watching people thrown into a Matrix-style simulation by some curious robot overlords who wanted to know how human emotions work.
Jeff Kober’s script examines several thought-provoking themes that are weighty enough to support their own film. Questions like how do people find meaning in life’s chaos, what drives artists to put themselves out in the world to be judged, and why are men so threatened by the female form? The problem is that Ciccoritti awkwardly explores these themes in a dull and stilted manner. The heady concepts are explored through the use of bland characters who stand around talking about their feelings rather than expressing themselves through their actions.
Lie Exposed features the right elements to craft a thoughtful and engaging film, but its lack of storytelling finesse spawns a lacklustre viewing experience.