Where the Truth Lies Movie Review
Adapting a novel by Rupert Holmes, writer-director Atom Egoyan (Ararat) guides the story of a reporter in the '70s digging for dirt on a defunct '50s comedy team Lanny and Vince (Kevin Bacon and Colin Firth, respectively). In doing so, he has created a fusion of noir mystery and showbiz tell-all, which explains why it's interesting even when it's not making much sense, and also why all of the women in both of the movie's eras look like femmes fatale.
Well, that's not exactly right; Alison Lohman, playing the journalist, looks more like a girl dressed as a femme fatale for a school play, or Halloween. It's the damnedest thing: Lohman perfectly played ten years below her actual twentysomething years in Matchstick Men, but here has trouble asserting herself as someone her actual age. Her voice wilts in awkward stretches of voiceover, and her whispering intonations join forces with an overemphatic score to weigh the movie down, slowly but surely. Where the Truth Lies is too serious by half, especially when it comes to solving its own mysteries.
At least one lingers after the resolution: Why, in the press about the MPAA's decision not to relent in its NC-17 rating, was it never mentioned just how much sex is in this movie (which comes to us unrated)? The rating was allegedly over a single, pivotal, single-shot sex scene late in the film that could not be trimmed, but I can think of several other, non-pivotal, multiple-angle sex scenes elsewhere in the film that could help to explain the restrictive rating. While it's true that the MPAA is prudish and coy about sex, and that few if any NC-17s are deserved, make no mistake: the risqué content goes beyond a single scene. Egoyan's sexual frankness is admirable, but I wish I knew what it had to do with this story. The sex in Where the Truth Lies is like most everything else in the movie: interesting, but inexplicable and faintly ridiculous.
Through all of Egoyan's dramatic heavy breathing, the mysterious dissolution of Lanny and Vince remains intriguing. They're obviously modeled on Martin and Lewis, with Firth doing a more uptight, upright (read: British) take on Martin, and Bacon as a slightly less spazzy Lewis. At least while on camera, anyway. Their affectionate but testy partnership is deepened when the film snakes back and forth between their annual telethon (sound familiar?) and the mysterious off-camera events, including a young hotel employee (Rachel Blanchard).
Firth essentially does a seamier variation on his usual stuffed-shirt (though he does get a surprising burst of fisticuffs), but Bacon, stealthily becoming one of our finest actors, stands out, as brazen and slurry as his roles in The Woodsman and Mystic River were quiet and internal. But it's hard for this performance to gain the kind of traction those did, because Where the Truth Lies remains elusive even - maybe especially - after the mystery is solved.