Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Ten Statements About....WHERE THE TRUTH LIES (2005)

You may think hot lesbian sex is all good..but when it's an
Atom Egoyan film, you're going to regret the ogling...
"See, what you have to understand is that Vince and me were essentially a boy/girl act. I was the tramp ready for any sort of action, and Vince was the gentleman always trying to make me behave myself. I was pleasure, and he was control" I was rock n' roll, and he was class. His presence gave America permission to like me."

1) While the lure of this film is its presentation as a murder mystery built around speculations on the break-up of Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin (even though the facts of the characters of Lanny and Vince are altered wildly, we are never allowed to escape the idea that these are effigies of Lewis and Martin), it's typical that director Atom Egoyan manages to find ways to twist that mystery in such a way to allow his particular obsessions--grief, sexuality, emotional coldness, control--to shine through.

2) And speaking of emotional coldness, I am not sure how I feel about Alison Lohman. She has an undeniable presence, but there is also a stiffness and coldness to her as an actress that serves to keep us at arm's length, even when her character Karen is in situations that cause her passions to rise. Yes, that chilly nature makes her perfect for Egoyan's distinctive style...but I don't if it works when it comes to a murder mystery like this, where we need to feel the desire for this character to uncover the truth.

3) Whereas Lohman may be too cold for this film, Kevin Bacon is not. Unlike Colin Firth, who moves his effigy so far away from Martin that he'd be unrecognizable if Egoyan took away the marathon and the gang connections, Bacon takes a character of his own creation and logically layers on echoes of Lewis through body language and the pace of his words. And more importantly, Bacon creates a character who is monstrous at time...but also is fairly sympathetic. We feel for Lanny even as we suspect he may be a killer.

And this is me in front of the Eiffel Tower--no wait,
this is an Egoyan film, so it's a photo of you having
cosplay lesbian sex!"

4) There's an interesting 'he said/she said' element to the film, with the developing narration Karen is creating as she writes her book contrasting with the already written out memoirs of Lanny. And as the movie progresses, we see how these two narratives intertwine and reflect each other, allowing Karen to unravel the real truth behind what happened.

5) While I wasn't surprised to see the usual Egoyan acting suspects, I was pleased to see them in parts I didn't expect thanks to the more American sensibilities of this script--Maury Chaykin playing a foul-mouthed New Jersey mobster was particularly amusing.

6) People like my partner Derrick who love movies about writers might like this--Karen is pretty much the POV character, and there's a definite theme of oral history here. The core of the mystery's solution, and many of the plot beats, are triggered because someone identifying herself as a journalist was getting it all down on tape.

7) One of the drawbacks to the solution of this mystery comes from part of the motivating factor for the murder. It's not the why per se--it's the fact that the script is never clear as to the extent of that why. There is an implication that Lanny shared Vince's feelings, not only in the revelatory scene but in some of Lanny's narration...but it's never clearly stated. Egoyan is famous for being ambivalent when it comes to motivating his character, but this is a murder mystery--and a murder mystery needs to have motivation spelled out.

8) I don't know how they simulated Lohman as a ten year old child....but Ye Gods, do those brief scenes with the Alice-y dressed Karen on the telethon come off as creepy. But then, that might be intentional on Egoyan's part.

This may sound weird, but trust me...this is one of the
scariest moments in this film.
9) There's a lot of Alice In Wonderland imagery, which makes sense since Karen starts out as a wide-eyed hero worshipper obsessed on some level with the comedy duo who visited her when she was recovering from polio and ends up falling 'down the rabbit hole' into a tawdry world of lies, fetishism and misconceptions. If only Lohman was able to better pull off the before in that first act.

10) The final disclosure of what actually happened to the murdered girl works incredibly well--not only because of the true monstrousness of the act motivated out of a desire to play out a long game but because the black humor of the solution did not escape Egoyan in the least. I only wish he had found some way to work in the dialogue in a deleted scene that ends with Karen accusing the villian of not only taking a girl's life, but the heart of the girl's mother, and the father's mind. Yes, the scene played wrong and would have screwed with the pacing Egoyan maintained...but the villian's retort of 'I also took my time' is so supremely chilling he stands revealed as the grotesque we didn't suspect he was throughout the film's running time until this moment. intriguing entry in Egoyan's canon that takes a number of risks. While it doesn't succeed entirely, it has enough elements--and a tremendous performance by Bacon--that makes it very watchable.

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