The first thing that needs to be said about The Good Liar for those who look to reviews for recommendations is that it’s essentially a straightforward adaptation of what sounds like a trashy thriller novel made respectable by the casting of two of Britain’s finest veteran actors. That description alone should be enough to let you know whether you want to see it, and if it isn’t then probably you shouldn’t, because, as directed by supreme hack Bill Condon, it offers little in the way of surprises or deep thought.
Helen Mirren and Ian McKellen play Betty and Roy, two single senior citizens who meet in London through a dating website. Betty is recently widowed and Roy long-divorced, and both approach their rendezvous cautiously, using aliases at first, but once they find they are comfortable with each other, they relax and open up—or so the audience is meant to believe. The title gives away more than it should, and less than 20 minutes into the film we learn that Roy is a professional con man in the process of pulling off a large-scale securities scam. Betty is still a work in progress, as it turns out that Roy plans to bilk her of her 3 million pounds in savings.
The main obstacle is Betty’s grandson, Steven (Russell Torvy), an academic who is researching Albert Speer and harbors a great deal of mistrust toward people of Roy’s seemingly dodgy background (strangely for such a meticulously plotted story, his isn’t that bullet proof). However, more to the point, as Roy’s nefarious scheme takes shape he finds he has feelings for the trusting and seemingly naive Betty, and thus the viewer is forced to wonder if he will carry that scheme to its completion.
Needless to say, things become much more complicated before any kind of resolution presents itself, and many of these complications run off on tangents that don’t make much logical sense, though, on paper, I imagine they gave readers more of a reason to keep slogging through a story they’d probably read many times before. The skills incorporated into the making of The Good Liar can’t quite cover up its sodden familiarity, and its initial lightness of tone—I thought it was going to be a comedy—is continually undermined by nasty business that seems either gratuitous or desperate. It’s a movie with pedigree but no class.
Now playing in Tokyo at Toho Cinemas Hibiya (050-6868-5068), Shinjuku Picadilly (050-6861-3011).
The Good Liar home page in Japanese.
photo (c) 2019 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Bron Creative USA Corp.