The partners that travel, do everything else together. Even murder groupies.
Famed comedy-duo Lanny Morris (Kevin Bacon) and Vince Collins (Colin Firth) were at the peak of their fame during the tail-end of the 50’s. Morris was always the wise-cracking funny-man, that always acted-out and was goofy; whereas Vince was the reserved, kind and gentle British straight-man who was always there to apologize and make nice for Morris’ behavior. They were successful had a lot of great shows; held a weekend-long telethon for a Polio charity that became something of a staple for television at that time; messed around with plenty of women; made a chunk of money; and seemed as if they could never, ever stop being rich, famous and powerful. However, one day, that did in fact happen when a dead body was discovered in one of their hotel bathtubs. Though both claimed to have no idea who the body was and how it even got there, it didn’t matter, the rest of the world already saw them as criminals, therefore, they were. Their fame died-down, they broke-up, and less than twenty years later, they’re reliving it all over again when journalist-turned-author, as well as Morris-Collins enthusiast, Karen O’Connor (Alison Lohman), comes into these guys’ lives, trying to get to the bottom of the story, but also getting mixed-up in a whole lot more than just the narrative of that night in question.
Back in the day, when this movie was first released, their was a lot of talk surrounding this movie and the fact in which it was rated NC-17 after the MPAA didn’t like what they saw. Writer/director Atom Egoyan, as predicted, was upset with this, so, as an act of rebellion and to also make a dignified-point, he released it without a rating at all. The scene called into question was a graphic sex scene in which Bacon’s character was indeed making some sweet lovin’ to a very-naked woman.
That doesn’t sound like much of anything different from what we usually see in movies nowadays, right? Well, here was the difference: Firth’s character comes up from behind during the scene and therefore, engages in a little bit of a threesome, although it doesn’t end like so. It’s a pretty quick scene, and given the run-time and plot itself, seems rather minor, but apparently, the MPAA didn’t like the homosexual ideas being tossed-around, therefore, they slapped it with an NC-17 rating. A rather unfair one, if you ask me, but then again, when was the last time the MPAA actually gave a movie a harsh rating and it made sense.
Okay, sure, Shame needed to be more than just NC-17, but that’s not the point!
Anyway, the reason why I highlight this aspect surrounding the film, than anything else, is because there really isn’t much else to talk about. There’s plenty more sex where that came from (even one including two women going at it), but that’s Egoyan really seems to color this film with to differentiate itself from the rest of the pack of spicy, saucy, neo-noir thrillers. If there wasn’t all that many sexual-escapades shown to us in the most straight-forward manner, then what we’d have would be just another, smoky, dark, and mean tale of celebrities doing bad things, ad there never being a clear answer as to what exactly happened when the lights went down, and who exactly was responsible.
As I’ve said before, that’s nothing new in the genre of thrillers, or even mystery-tales, and that’s why I think Egoyan threw in so much sex, drugs, nudity, lobsters, champagne, twists, turns and curve-balls (most of which, don’t even work); he doesn’t have much to work with, so he hides behind a coating-of-paint to give us the impression that we’re working with something else on a higher-level. Better yet, a different level, and it just doesn’t come off that way. Instead, it seems like a regular thriller, with too many twists by the end. Which is a bit of a disappointment, considering that the first act of this movie is actually pretty good and gives you an idea of what to expect of the rest of the movie.
It takes place both during and around 1957 and 1972, giving us the idea that this is going to be a classic-tale of mystery, intrigue, and what classified a person as a “celebrity” back in those days. Once again, it isn’t uncharted-territory, but Egoyan seems very interested in the look and feel of this movie, and for the longest time, I took the bait and followed along with him. He isn’t necessarily “basing” this story off of anybody in particular, but just any celebrity in general that may have been caught with a scandal that the mainstream media may, or may not have, heard about. Everything looks colorful, sensual, misty and as if all of the budget went into the production-design, without there ever really being a false-note to be heard or seen.
Then, sadly, it all goes downhill, especially during the 1972 story-angle that’s forced down our throats just about every ten or so minutes. The first problem with this angle is that the turns and twists continue to get thrown at us, and almost none of them make sense. They aren’t necessarily confusing that when we’re first told the explanation for something happening, we automatically scratch our heads; it’s more like once the twists actually get explained to us, then everything gets a whole lot more foggy. They also never seem to build to anything except that “celebrities lie”.
No shit! Tell me more!
Another problem with this angle is that Alison Lohman is pretty bad in this movie. Usually, I think Lohman’s a sweet, heartfelt presence to have in a movie, but here, she’s given something she is not at all capable of being: Sexy. Not saying Lohman isn’t attractive (she totally is, I’d take her home in a heartbeat, heck maybe even bring up the topic of marriage), but what she has to do here is act, look, and sound like she’s a raspy, old school dame that would exist in those noirs released during the 30’s-to-the-50’s, but she’s just too small and innocent. In a way, it’s almost like she’s just a little girl thrown into this cold, dark and menacing world where grown-ups play and have no time for silly, little willy nillies like her. There are times when Lohman is okay, but her unenthusiastic-narration isn’t doing much to help her, and neither is the fact that she’s placed against two class-acts like Kevin Bacon and Colin Firth.
As usual, Bacon is great here as Lanny Morris, the wild, crazy and typical prankster in front of the camera, but more quiet and calm behind it. Bacon is great at being a lovable goofball, which is why it’s so effective once he has to turn the other cheek, be a bit of a dick and not really say much at all. It’s something we’ve seen Bacon do before and work really well with, and that’s no different here. As for Firth, he too is great at doing what he does best: Show a dark side to his collective and cool manners. Together, the two are great and seem like they could have really been a wonderful comedy-act to see in real life. In fact, if this movie really wanted to go for the gut, they could have just made it something of a biopic about these two talented guys whom worked together, traveled together, slept together, partied together and even committed crimes together, and it would have been such a better movie. However, what we have here is just a murder-mystery with a lame detective and a sex scene that hints at something more extreme, yet never materializes to much.
Like sex with me, I presume. Right, ladies? Or wait! No, that’s not right, ladies! Not at all!
Consensus: A little sexy, a little dark, a little mysterious, and a little entertaining for the first hour, Where the Truth Lies works well setting-up its story, which is why it’s such a shame once it all goes down the tubes during its last-half when unbelievable plot twists start showing up like clockwork.
5 / 10 = Rental!!
Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, Collider, ComingSoon.net