Directed by: Bill Condon
Written by: Jeffrey Hatcher
Starring: Helen Mirren, Ian McKellen, Russell Tovey, Jim Carter, Mark Lewis Jones, Laurie Davidson
As kids, we are always told to tell the truth because doing so demonstrates the best way to go through life. “Honesty is the best policy” became a phrase I heard a lot in elementary school. While telling the truth personifies honor, as this film displays, lying makes for a very entertaining and twisty story. It also helps when your film includes some acting legends.
While making a pretty penny by conning others, Roy Courtnay (Ian McKellen) sets up a date with recently widowed Betty (Helen Mirren) after chatting through an online dating website. After learning about the vast sum of Betty’s financial assets, Roy sees her as the perfect mark to be the last big con of his career.
Based on the synopsis of this story and any film that involves a con, there are bound to be plenty of twists along the way and this review will not give them away because they serve as a real treat for the audience. That’s the best way to describe The Good Liar overall, a real treat of a movie. The film’s entire set up is there to create intrigue for the audience and the first half really delivers in building up the story and the characters for all the madness that would ensue in the second half.
The true stars of this film are the actors, who serve as the selling point of this feature and they both deliver brilliant performances. Ian McKellen, in particular, plays such an evil and scheming man, which differs from his typical roles. McKellen gained mainstream popularity through portraying noble characters like Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings series of films and Magneto in the X-Men franchise. Even when playing a villainous character, he still plays a man of principle and honorable with views that might be a bit misguided. However, in this film, he embodies a different type of evil that would make the audience hate him if not for the fact he’s so charming in his suits. He could con his way into anyone’s good graces only to screw them over in the end. The costume design for this character defined him as well; such a dapper old man that no one could imagine would hurt a fly.
Additionally, Helen Mirren came to play and obviously enjoyed this role. Her character personifies one to be sickly and very naive to the charms of Roy but Mirren has a way of always having a look that she has something going on, which made her an excellent choice for the role of Betty. A little cherry on top in the casting department was Jim Carter as Vincent, Roy’s associate. Known for his role as Mr. Carson in the beloved series, Downton Abbey. Seeing him as a scheming grifter was a very different experience and he excelled in his role as well.
As for gripes with the film, there was far too much exposition utilized during the movie to explain everything that happened, especially when certain twists happen. There were some that did not pay off for me but others worked extremely well. At times, the plot relied on shock value rather than what would resonate in the story. The film really moves, which shows it had some good pacing because when the con occurs, things need to move quickly. So many quick moments contribute to the effectiveness of the story.
For this film, the pleasure lies in the game and Roy thinks he has himself an easy mark but learns that others can be as proficient as he when it comes to lying. The game itself provided a fun experience and the audience I experienced this film with really enjoyed all the quips the film had to offer. I see The Good Liar as a fun thriller that provides an acting showcase for some of the best actors to ever do it. Prepare for some twists and seeing beloved actors in some very different roles you might expect from them.