The Good Liar (2019)

The Good Liar
Director: Bill Condon
Writer: Jeffrey Hatcher
Based on: Nicholas Searle’s novel
Cast: Helen Mirren, Ian McKellen, Russell Tovey, Jim Carter, Mark Lewis Jones, Laurie Davidson, Phil Dunster, Lucian Msamati
Seen on: 13.12.2019

Content Note: rape

Plot:
Betty (Helen Mirren) meets Roy (Ian McKellen) online and soon a romantic relationship starts between the two of them. Betty’s grandson Stephen (Russell Tovey) is a little suspicious of Roy, and rightly so: Roy is a con artist out to relieve Betty of her money. But maybe this time, he actually starts to have feeling for Betty. And maybe Betty isn’t quite as naive as she seems at first.

You’d think that Helen Mirren and Ian McKellen starring in a film together is all you need to make great entertainment, but The Good Liar proves that a bad story can ruin even that pairing.

The film poster showing Betty (Helen Mirren) and Roy (Ian McKellen). She is wearing a white coat in front of a white background, he is wearing a black suite in front of a black background.

[SPOILERS]

The Good Liar has several problems. One is, quite simply, that it is boring. Despite the many twists and turns the plot takes. Or actually because of them: I was fine as long as this was simply the story of a con. Not particularly great, but fine. But then the twists and “gotcha” moments start – and they all fall flat and make the story increasingly less interesting.

Another problem was that the twists tie the story back to World War 2 and it turns out to be a rape revenge film. Both of those subjects need sensitive handling, but neither the script nor the director are actually interested in exploring the pain that is connected with that. It only includes those things for the cheap thrill. After the triumphant “bet you didn’t see that coming” (when, in fact, much was quite expected), nobody cares anymore. (I haven’t read the novel this is based on, maybe it treats its story better.)

Betty (Helen Mirren) and Roy (Ian McKellen) going over some documents.

It’s a tragedy that they wasted McKellen and Tovey on this, but how the film treats Mirren is outright insulting and almost offensive. When you can’t buy a character played by Helen fucking Mirren, you know that things are seriously, irrevocably wrong.

But then, nothing about this film can be bought, and probably shouldn’t be, either. I certainly cannot recommend that anybody spend any money on that film.

Betty (Helen Mirren), Roy (Ian McKellen) and Stephen (Russell Tovey) eating together.

Summarizing: just no.

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