Wednesday 13 November 2019

Film: 'The Good Liar'

Just as well for not taking any exalted hopes with me into this film because I derived rather more pleasure from certain stretches of it than perhaps it deserved, virtually all in the earlier parts. Starting out in something of a 'fun' style, even jaunty, it gets progressively bleaker until the final half hour or so when, for the big 'reveal(s)' it becomes very black indeed, even appallingly so - sitting most uncomfortably with what had gone before.

Professional con-man and septuagenarian Ian McKellan (thankfully with none at all of his trademark mumblings here) via a computer dating site meets well-off widow (Helen Mirren) of similar years to feign a romantic attraction, though actually to relieve her of her riches. Ostensibly she falls for his ruse - though if there's anyone who can't guess what's going to happen they can't have seen too many films. She has a near middle-aged grandson (Russell Tovey) who is immediately suspicious of McKellan's motives. The latter continues his deception while living a double life and with the assistance of a coterie of co-conspirators, principally Jim Carter as his (ahem!) 'Financial Adviser' cheats other wealthy 'clients' out of hundreds of thousands of pounds or more, they all taking a share in the proceeds of the scam.  
The film continues with increasing focus on the McKellan/Mirren relationship, spiralling down into big-scale serious drama until it reaches its climax, first in Berlin (such melodrama!) then for resolution back in London's wealthy and leafy suburbs. Although the presentation of details of the ultimate revelations may surprise one, the fact that they occur at all should not. 

It's a weird film, tonally uncertain, neither this nor that, yet I must confess to finding a degree of compulsion in its watchability, largely because of the dual presence of two who are considered to be among our very finest British actors, one on screen, the other in theatre, playing a 'double act', it's not to be sniffed at.

Director is Bill Condon ('Kinsey', 'Mr Holmes', 'Dreamgirls') who may have had some qualms about bringing this strange product to the screen, I don't know! - a product which may be described as an old-fashioned type 'pot-boiler', though with one or two violent and gory images, albeit very short. I'm sure he does as well as he could with the material he had.

A bit of an odd-ball film which I'd recommend it if you want to watch a reasonably entertaining curiosity. I do think, however, that without its two stars (plus the commendable Russell Tovey) it might have fallen yet flatter than it actually does.............5.5.

(IMDb...............6.4 - Rott.Toms [critics only] ......6.3 ).


  1. Glad to see the score you've given it...a fair one. Story like you said ...meh. But Mckellen, Merrin and Tovey....i like that chemisty

    1. Despite my qualifications I don't regret seeing it one bit, M.M. Could have been a near disaster with an unknown cast though yet with these two stars, who obviously respect each other greatly, it remains strangely memorable, and not in a necessarily bad sense.

  2. I must see this one because of Mirren and McKellen.
    And Russell Tovey doesn't hurt.

    Plus, I like an oddball film.

    1. You pick the best reasons for seeing it, Bob, and with those three/four reasons as your criteria you won't feel let down.

  3. The final reveal galloped away with itself

    1. 'Clunky' and 'over-sensational' don't even cover the half of it, JayGee!

  4. jimmie t. murakami17 November 2019 at 14:35

    Ray, would your rating system equate to:

    10 = unmitigated genius beyond all imagining.
    9 = quite simply, a masterwork.
    8 = a truly great movie.
    7 = a very good movie.
    6 = a good movie.
    5 = almost good but not quite.
    4 = decidedly mediocre but still watchable.
    3 = not good but not a total waste of time.
    2 = a total waste of time.
    1 = almost completely unwatchable.
    0 = Appalling, totally unwatchable garbage.

    with halfs for shading obviously.

    1. Much of what you suggest is spot-on, J. There are only three films I've seen to which I'd award a '9' - and none at all a '10' (or '9.5', obviously). Equally, I'd not think any at all was 'worthy of a '0' or even a '1'. But it's all subjective anyway, my opinion being worth no more nor less than that of anyone else.

  5. jimmie t. murakami19 November 2019 at 01:56

    Ray, what are the three films that you regard as masterworks ?.

    1. I'd rather not say here directly, J. However if I give you the release dates, in the order of my placings, you should(?) be able to work them out - but if you do, please don't reveal the solutions here - otherwise I may have to delete your answer (wink). I'd rather they were mentioned in a separate blog of my own, though they have actually been named in earlier posts of mine. So, in order then - 1968, 1939 (no, not 'Oz', but it's become more controversial in recent years. Now there's a hint!) - and 1941.