The Naked Truth
Thursday, November 3, 2005
Up until now, Atom Egoyan was probably best known as the
director of 1997’s The Sweet Hereafter, a slow cooker
of a film about a small Canadian town dealing with a school
bus accident that received multiple Academy Award nominations.
Now, with the release of his latest work, the Canadian
independent filmmaker will be forever known as the man behind
Where the Truth Lies, a movie that manages to have
almost as much entertainment value as it has flaws.
WHERE THE TRUTH LIES ( * * ½ )Directed by Atom Egoyan
Starring Kevin Bacon, Colin Firth and Alison Lohman
(NC-17, 107 mins.) At the Osio Cinemas.
Based on a novel by Rupert Holmes, Where the Truth Lies stars Kevin Bacon (Mystic River) and Colin Firth (Bridget Jones’ Diary) as a pair of Rat Pack inspired entertainers who are known for their nightclub acts and fundraising polio telethons. Basically, most of their shtick revolves around Bacon, who plays Lanny Morris, trying to score with female members of the audience between cornpone comedy bits and singing segments.
But, the duo’s good times—whores, popping uppers and downers like Tic Tacs—come to a screeching halt in 1975 when a dead girl ends up in their luxurious New Jersey hotel suite. Fifteen years later, a headstrong young writer named Karen O’ Connor (played by Alison Lohman) is hired to interview one half of the now estranged comedy duo, Firth’s Vince Collins, and discover what exactly happened that fateful evening.
While trying to untangle the past, the naïve and always done-up O’Connor keeps getting into extremely awkward (sexual) positions with the subjects of her book—including one David Lynch-lite segment in which she starts making out with a girl dressed like Alice in Wonderland while Collins watches and a blustery saxophone wails. Also, the young writer seems to be haunted by advice from her father, a journalist who also must have been a Journalism 101 professor. “My father always told me that nothing had meaning unless it could be put on the record,” she says to herself or the audience in one of the film’s deepest moments.
Though the lines Lohman is given in the film are ridiculously hokey, a better actress might have been able to pull off the role. But there is no chance of transcendence here as Lohman turns in a performance of non-acting that could rival Hayden Christensen’s work in the last three Star Wars installments. She delivers lines in a tone of voice as flat as a week-old Mr. Pibb.
Luckily, Bacon and Firth fare much better. Especially Bacon, who oozes the requisite amount of sleaze as the immensely watchable Morris—his performance is right up there with Alec Baldwin’s Oscar-nominated role as a shady casino boss in 2003’s The Cooler. Whether he is talking about banging women or singing “Just a Gigolo” on stage with a Tom Waits-like growl, Bacon is probably the best part of Where the Truth Lies.
Despite Bacon’s performance, Egoyan severely missed the mark if he wanted to make a sexy intelligent thriller with Where the Truth Lies. But with his latest film, the Canadian director has succeeded at making a masterpiece. It’s just that Where the Truth Lies is not a work likely to garner any Academy Award nods, but is a masterwork of trashy entertainment on par with 1998’s Wild Things, a film destined for immortality as a midnight movie.