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The Invention of Lying

The Invention of Lying sees British comedian Ricky Gervais once again attempting to crack the U.S. market.  Whilst the creator/star of The Office and Extras has gained a cult following, his American cinematic forays have been less successful.  Whether the transplantation of English humour into American movie making is the cause is debatable although his latest finds his noted comedic rhythm tested in a lukewarm production.
Movie screenwriter Mark Bellison (Ricky Gervais) lives in a world where nobody can lie.  Every truthful thought, no matter how hurtful, is uttered by a populace knowing no better.  When on the brink of being fired from his job, Mark suddenly gains the gift of lying.  Telling tall tales to those around him, he finds his once mundane life becomes an influential symbol to those searching for happiness.  This comes in handy when wooing Anna (Jennifer Garner), as his flair for fibbing suddenly reveals a few home truths.
One of the hardest things for an actor to do is be funny. It’s easy being dramatic and only a few have been successful at both.  Like Gervais’ performance, The Invention of Lying seems to want it both ways, with religious overtones mixed in its buffoonish humour.  Unfortunately this constant struggle ruins a potentially good premise in how fiction can sometimes bring more happiness than fact.  Gervais certainly has the ability to present this in a unique way, and occasionally scores goals.  It’s when he leans on the crutch of pure formula that the momentum sags with set ups never receiving their desired punch-lines.
Sadly for a movie aiming for the title of ‘comedy’ Invention only inspires intermittent mirth.  The third act where Mark turns into a Christ-like messiah falls hopelessly flat exposing the film’s overall forced nature.  From the dialogue to some of the acting, the natural feel so crucial to making anything believable is missing.  For all that there are some good scenes with Gervais showing some great dramatic talent.  He seems more comfortable with these sequences, perhaps suggesting a split between TV comedy and serious cinematic fare would better suit his diverse skills.
Gervais’ latest isn’t terrible although nor does it truly fly.  It stretches its concept very thinly with moments ripe for biting satire lost to clumsy writing.  Capable of raising a smirk than laughs, this droll outing may find some fans with its anecdotal pretences.
Rating out of 10:  4

Capitalism: A Love Story

When Gordon Gekko stood on the podium extolling the virtues of greed in Oliver Stone’s Wall Street, little did audiences know how real Michael Douglas’ role was.  Such was his impact that he became a beacon of awe and hostility for his money hungry ways.  Unfortunately the character seems to have been very close to the bone as Michael Moore’s latest essay on American life attests.  Exploring the impact of capitalism and its shameless exploitation by certain businesses, Capitalism: A Love Story is a poisonous valentine that Gekko would have steered clear.
Twenty years ago Moore’s first film, Roger & Me, examined the affect of the closure of the General Motors factory in Flint, Michigan.  Almost its natural sequel, ‘Capitalism’ shows how this became a prelude to the dismantling of the notion of workers being a companies best asset. The issues unearthed including job cuts and the sub-prime housing crisis have become a red rag to the bull that is Michael Moore.  Well known as an advocate of socialism vs. the rampant consumerism of capitalism, his targets are well chosen to suit his narrative.
Fans of his work should know the routine by now.  The ruffled shirt, hat and crumpled demeanour are a clever tactic in portraying the ‘everyman’ qualities enabling Moore to relate to his audience.  His enthusiasm in expressing his forthright views reveals his zest for maintaining the rage against the machine of corporate interference in politics and their sometimes outrageous practices.  When he exposes such schemes, the film becomes a chilling indictment on the ’profit at any cost’ mantra strangling the shaky reputation of big business.
Where he comes unstuck is in his occasionally comedic grand-standing.  Whilst these elements have previously proven potent, here it feels strained with the lengthy running time over-emphasising his points.  He’s a bit of a show-off really although he at least knows how to present information in an engaging manner with his interaction with victims genuinely moving.  As always we’re only seeing one side of the debate, although the ‘gains for the few at the expense of the many’ becomes a compelling argument in Moore’s capable hands.
With many of his films railing against the diseased nature of his home country, you wonder why he still lives there.  Even he queries that himself, although it’s his care about what happens to his fellow citizens which continue to drive his personal sensibilities.  In that way that’s what has made him a great film-maker, even though his latest isn’t quite his best, he at least infuses the passion needed to continue questioning the way of his world.
Rating out of 10:  7