Where The Truth Lies

Atom Egoyan is one of the most original and, lately, oft-imitated directors around. Recent hit melodramas Crash and 21 Grams both owe more than a passing debt to his previous works – despite neither of them having the genuine humanity of any of his (although, Crash does almost get there at points). Both of those films seemed to think that making use of a fractured and repeating narrative style would lend themselves some weight. To be honest, the style soon became all they were about. Not that either is a particularly bad film. Both are well worth seeing. It’s just that whereas with Egoyan you’d find yourself mulling over something a few days later, there was a sense of having been cheated before the credits started rolling at the end of those two. Like some cheap close up magic trick that’s held you distracted while cards were being plucked out your ass.

Most of his films have a heavy element of mystery to them. Somewhere at the heart of each there is a detective figure, searching out the truth buried somewhere. His structures using a fractured unraveling of plot built largely of flashbacks, has it’s roots in the noir or the forties and fifties and is nearly custom built for the purpose. So, this adaptation of (what has to be) a fairly pulpy book should be right up his street. Also, it takes a director I much admire into the seedy underbelly of 50s-70s showbiz (yes, a la Ellroy), which should be right up my street.

Lanny Morris and Vince Collins are a hugely successful, loosely mafia tied, comedy duo in the 1950s. (Much has been made of the duo being based on Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. Morris’ has bandy legs and gurns. Collins is supposedly more sophisticated and tries to keep him in line. They are famous for marathon telethons. That’s pretty much about it. Any other comparison must surely be completely libelous. Either that or I know sod all about Martin & Lewis. Which could be quite likely.) After an incident involving the body of a young woman being found in their hotel suite, the duo split up. 15 years later a young journalist tries to piece together what really happened that night.

Similarly to Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, central to the success of this film are two damn fine central performances. Colin Firth is, as ever, charismatic and suitably balanced. The perfect balance between sophisticated restraint and seething passions. Which is what you get Firth in for really. The press for this movie has made much of it being against type for him. Other than the fact that we’re not used to seeing him as a pill-popping near-psycho, her really just does what he usually does. And, despite the fact that he’s been in some of the most dreadful and reprehensible work of the last decade or so, he’s always a pleasure to watch. Well, I think so anyway – right, girls?

The other performance comes from movie geek standing joke Kevin Bacon. Again, gaining particularly rave notices, which is a bit odd not only has he’s always been really good but his last movie (well the last one that got a cinema release here as opposed to the thirty-odd straight-to-DVD things he’ll have squeezed in) The Woodsman got exactly the same I-can’t-believe-it’s-really-Bacon treatment. That said, he is pretty amazing in this. The outward clown and charmer is excellent, but what lifts the performance is a certain reticence that he hints at throughout. It’s not the ‘crying on the inside’ cliche, but just the impression of a man desperately trying to keep a hold on something that is him and his alone – not public property. In the later years it’s similar to the Jerry Langford character in Scorsese‘s King Of Comedy played by…oh, hang about…

Where the film falls down (we’ll ignore the stupendously young starlet cast as the journo, who while pretty good, just doesn’t convince) is on points of plot failure. When we learn the big bad secret it’s pretty cliched. When the ‘twists’ are brought in to tie everything up, they’re signposted to the extent that their nearly in braille. No real surprises. No real horror. Of course, I shall blame that on the source material. There is a sense that Egoyan has been given the novel to adapt by a studio as his first Hollywood film. And while this is better than average (in fact most directors would sacrifice at least one limb to have made this), not one of his greats. But, that’s not really a criticism.

This film didn’t get classified in the states. I have no idea why, but shall assume it’s the studios hatred of putting anything out rated x (NC-17? 18? Can’t think off hand what the US equivalents are).


Written by Tony Kiernan

20 December 2005 at 1:30 pm

Posted in Film

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