The Observer (Dec 4, 2005, by Philip French)
Both of Canada's major directors, David Cronenberg and Atom Egoyan, have this year set aside some of their personal quirkiness and headed south of the 49th parallel to make highly enjoyable, rather conventional thrillers in the States....Egoyan's Where the Truth Lies is a rich brew that draws on Citizen Kane and Rashomon in telling the story of an ambitious journalist...who sets out in 1972 to re-examine the circumstances that led to the break-up 15 years earlier of one of the most successful double acts in American show business....
Firth and Bacon make a plausible pair, vaguely reminiscent of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis in character and size of popularity, but not so much that they invite direct comparison. They also have the right dated quality, as we first see them in black and white hosting a three-day 1957 telethon for a polio charity, in which their theme tune is—persuasively, if slightly anachronistically—Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim's 'Together Wherever We Go' from Gypsy...
The movie is full of ambiguity as it goes in search of, as proclaimed by the title, where the truth lies. It's generally convincing on the Fifties and the Seventies, and the differences between the two in styles and attitudes. Whether various cliches are of a part with the pastiche music and fashions one cannot be sure. But the movie, with its endless flashbacks and switches of time, holds the attention and makes us want to know the outcome. [full review]
The Telegraph (Dec 2, 2005, by Tim Robey)
Fans of Atom Egoyan rarely expect to be given all the answers. His films go in for uncertainties, not twists. So the strange thing about Egoyan's soft-focus showbiz murder mystery Where the Truth Lies, adapted from a book by Rupert Holmes, is how uncharacteristically straightforward it is.
That pun-intended title is misleading, since the truth doesn't lie, in this instance—it behaves with perfect decorum. Sure, Holmes's whodunnit structure keeps us guessing—the story revolves around a corpse in a bathtub, a ménage-à-trois sex scandal, and a 15-year-old cover-up—but, even if you don't work it out precisely, there's never much doubt about what kind of narrative resolution we're heading for.
What keeps it watchable is simply this: it's Egoyan's most energetic film in years. He shows a sharp, Scorsese-ish eye for period pizzazz, and has two stars on strong form in Kevin Bacon and Colin Firth...
But there's fun, of a sleekly superficial kind, to be had here, and Bacon and Firth—amiably paired, and ageing credibly with awful 1970s sideburns—throw themselves into it with louche abandon. This may not be Egoyan on his best form by any stretch of the imagination, but it's still well worth catching. [full review]
The Irish Times (Dec 2, 2005, by Donald Clarke) - 3 of 5 stars
This tense, seedily enjoyable murder mystery has received some poor reviews for, it seems, the sin of being more frivolous than earlier work by its acclaimed Canadian director, Atom Egoyan. Where the Truth Lies has, it is true, little of the tragic resonance of The Sweet Hereafter and none of the ironic complexity of Exotica. But think of it as an absurdly lavish episode of Columbo and you will most likely have a whale of a time....
Egoyan has turned Vince Collins, the saner of the two, into a dry English entertainer played, with undercurrents of Peter Lawford and Cary Grant, by an impressively tormented Colin Firth. Lanny Morris, the irrepressible clown, has become less manic and more like Kevin Bacon, who, usefully, rarely comes across on screen as being entirely trustworthy...
There are, at times, suggestions that Egoyan may be too much of a cinematic highbrow to tailor his story to genre templates.... And the uncharismatic female leads are somewhat overpowered by Firth and Bacon. But, as James Ellroy has repeatedly demonstrated, there is something endlessly fascinating about the druggy, sexy half-world visited, cardigans off, by so many apparently clean-cut 1950s performers.
Featuring a sinister score by Mychael Danna and evocative Vaseline-fuzzy photography by Paul Sarossy, Egoyan's enjoyable entertainment proves a welcome addition to the cinema of the dark underbelly. [full review]
The Herald (Dec 1, 2005, by Hannah McGill)
Egoyan has made his most pleasurable movie yet....A couple of excellent performances also elevate the project. Colin Firth and Kevin Bacon are both on top form as Vince and Lanny, well-known but low-rent 1950s TV celebrities whose long-standing partnership on the variety circuit is dramatically ruptured by a mysterious crisis that occurs at the height of their fame. Canadian actress Rachel Blanchard—usually confined to bimbo roles in US frat-boy comedies—is extremely impressive, too, as the young hotel chambermaid who triggers their split.... [full review]
IndieLondon (Nov 30, 2005, by Jack Foley)
So begins Where The Truth Lies, a twisting erotic and utterly compelling murder-mystery from director, Atom Egoyan, that explores the seamier side of celebrity in suitably sinister fashion....Where The Truth lies has attracted a certain amount of notoriety because of an explicit sex scene that helped earn it a dreaded NC-17 rating in America. Yet it contains plenty to arouse the mind as well, thanks to its enticing mix of showbiz excess and 'whodunnit' elements.
Bacon is typically electrifying as the womanising Lanny, a sexual predator whose wayward habits come back to haunt him in his later years, while Firth's pill-popping Vince flits between politeness and rage with genuine edginess, providing the actor with one of his best roles in ages (a million miles from his affable Bridget Jones types)...
Egoyan deserves credit, however, for creating such a dangerous, decadent world in which the truth is constantly evolving. His film continually keeps viewers guessing and actually has the courage to expose the shortcomings of just about every character. As both viewers and voyeurs, audiences will love being seduced.
Channel 4 (by Daniel Etherington)
It's a great set-up and Canadian director Atom Egoyan (Exotica, The Sweet Hereafter) creates an atmospheric mystery-drama from the source material, a novel by Rupert Holmes...
Bacon and Firth are an unexpectedly pleasing piece of casting, the experienced actors getting their teeth into roles unlike anything they've done before. Their double act of suave English straight man and brash, livewire East Coast Jew is the meat of the film. In their 1970s incarnations, both actors exude a quiet, abiding sense of guilt; they are carrying a painful secret they've never had a chance to unburden themselves of. O'Connor provides that chance, despite their reluctance, and the efforts of figures such as Morris's valet-cum-fixer Ruben (Hayman) to deflect her intentions.
Verdict: An involving mystery and a strong cast more than make up for the shortcomings of Egoyan's film about the underbelly of seemingly wholesome entertainment. [read full review]
Sight & Sound (Dec 2005, by Linda Ruth Williams)
A tricksy kiss-and-tell murder mystery with noirish undertones may be the obvious way to describe Atom Egoyan's Where the Truth Lies, but is it really more a weird erotic thriller in the Basic Instinct mould?
What is arthouse darling Atom Egoyan doing directing a starry, studio-esque work of pop schlock? His latest film Where the Truth Lies, starring A-listers Kevin Bacon and Colin Firth, is an entertaining, quick-witted maze of a movie with a switch-back plot so snaky it would pass muster for a Mickey Spillane or a Dashiell Hammett (it is in fact Egoyan's adaptation of a Rupert Holmes novel). Egoyan has achieved cult status as the intellectual purveyor of multilayered texts that obsess over psychological culpability and damage, often wreaked on children by adults. Where the Truth Lies, however, is a fully paid-up genre piece, which the press notes call filmnoir but which to me plays more like an erotic thriller, with enough explicit sex to earn it an NC17 rating in the US.
Perhaps he wants to attract the kind of audience who would go to a Kevin Bacon picture expecting something at the quirky end of mainstream or might be titillated by the sexy notoriety the film has garnered. Certainly female viewers hoping for a glimpse of the flesh that set their hearts a-flutter in Colin Firth's rom-com/classic-rom back catalogue will not be disappointed. The besuited razzmatazz and risqué bantering of the duo of 1950s lounge-lizard entertainers at the film's core recalls the rat pack or the pairing of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis (Lanny, played by Bacon, is the anarchic comic to Firth's withering and urbane straight-guy Vince—though 'straight' becomes a debated term). Both actors deliver impeccable performances in various rinky-dink nightclub settings and as the celebrity hosts and heroes of a national charity telethon; the story of their break-up (and of the body in the bath) is the subject some years later of an investigation by journalist Karen O'Connor (Alison Lohman), as Lanny and Vince are re-examined from the perspective of the 1970s.
The layered narrative allows Egoyan to jump back and forth between two time zones—and certainly the period detailing is as resonant as in his previous time-travel films...In an era that predates kiss and tell, megastars Lanny and Vince pill-pop and screw their way around the female population of white America, protected as the pet entertainers of the mob ("God help you when a killer takes a shine to you," says Lanny's voiceover). So it isn't until 1972 that a curious hack like Karen has the gumption and freedom to tell the behind-the-scenes story. This is also the moment when fashionable journalists began to insert themselves into their think-pieces—which she does by fucking Lanny and then having drug-fuelled lesbian sex in a tableau set up by Vince.
Sensational mainstream-style entertainment this may be, but Egoyan still expects you to have your wits about you as you watch. In classic noir style, events are presented from multiple perspectives, here through competing voiceovers by Karen and Lanny. (Lanny narrates from the manuscript of his unpublished autobiography while Karen strives to make sense of the scattered clues as she writes a biography of Vince.) Crime-thriller moments of clue-delivery and solution-discovery dot the narrative like a trail of breadcrumbs in a fairytale forest....Karen is a bright girl, like the smart dames of 1940s female-investigative thrillers. Pay enough attention and you will probably be rewarded by one of a series of ' Eureka' moments as the camera closes in on her face when the penny drops....
And then there is the title, an ambiguous piece of wordplay that appears across the film's first lie....Don't believe what you read in a book, Egoyan counsels, and don't believe what you see with your own eyes either...This is only to be expected from a director who forensically explores the unreliability of how we recall the past....
Egoyan's latest film...courts the mainstream with a classier version of tried-and-tested genre staples: the noir-ish narrative, exotically underweared women, hommes fatales, sexually induced deaths and secrets behind doors. And like the film itself, the women here raise the format's game in terms of sexual stereotypes. The protagonist is an ace journalist masquerading as a teacher and the victim is a college student. Both—clever as they are—succumb to the seductions of Lanny and Vince. Perhaps they stand in for the film's uneasy combination of intellectual complexity and sexual allure, cleverness and carnality....
[Read full article, which contains Spoilers here]
Shadows on the Wall (Nov 2, 2005, by Rich Cline) - 4 out of 5 stars
Lush and jazzy, this beautifully crafted film tells its twisty noir story without flinching. It's a boiling cauldron swirling with secrets and half-truths, and as we put the pieces together, it's absolutely gripping....
Egoyan (and novelist Rupert Holmes, of The Piña Colada Song fame) are playing with fact and fiction here, as Lanny and Vince tell vaguely different stories about their past. They're clearly hiding something, and their voiceover narrations, plus Karen's, constantly give us conflicting details and telling observations. But like the best films noir, none of this is reliable. And we have to sift through the story to find out what really happened.
Bacon and Firth deliver full-on performances—charming, energetic and overflowing with personality, to the point where we like but don't trust either of them. The script delves tellingly into issues of fame and privacy, the differences between stardom and reality, the fact that it's hard to be a nice guy for the fans—especially when that's not you. And Lohman is superb as a kind of femme fatale who's both a young child and a grown woman. It's a deceptively difficult role that she nails perfectly.
The story itself is a wonder of shaded coincidences and mysteries combined with eye-opening scenes, sharply witty dialog and more plot contortions than you can count. It's all heightened brilliantly by Mychael Danna's grandly suggestive score, which segues varied sounds of the 50s and 70s into iconic pop tunes. And Egoyan plays with us incessantly as he shifts the power around between the three central characters with their secretive longings and intricate interconnections. In the process he really gets under our skin, delivering one of the most adult thrillers of the year.
View London (by Matthew Turner) - 5 out of 5 stars
Sexy, stylish and hugely entertaining mystery drama with a sharp script, gorgeous set design and superb performances from all three leads—this is one of the best films of the year.
Where the Truth Lies is a mystery drama, based on the novel by Rupert Holmes and directed by Atom Egoyan. It’s a hugely enjoyable slice of Hollywood film noir and, as such, one of the best films of the year.
The Good: The film looks utterly gorgeous throughout, the rich, vibrant colours and impeccably stylish costumes contrasting brilliantly with the seedier elements of the plot. It also has a terrific score by Mychael Danna, which adds considerably to the noirish atmosphere of the film.
The Great: Kevin Bacon and Colin Firth are superb as Lanny and Vince, in both their 1950s and 1970s incarnations. Their complex relationship is at the heart of both the film and the mystery, with the result that we’re as eager as Karen to uncover the truth behind their split.
In short, Where the Truth Lies is a fabulous film that gets everything right. It’s gorgeous to look at, it has an intriguing plot, a terrific score, a sharp script and wonderful performances from its stars. Highly recommended.
Empire (4 out of 5 stars)
And they say Stanley Kubrick’s work is cold. Everything about Atom Egoyan’s latest exists on a cerebral plane. Its pacing as a thriller is slow and deliberate, while its plot twists are delivered without flash or fanfare. Perhaps it is this directorial approach that makes the film’s most graphic moment of passion—a sexual thrust too many earned it an NC17 rating in the US—so shocking and unexpected.
Egoyan plays a delicate game with audience perceptions, encouraging us to piece together fragments of the ‘truth’ from flashbacks, conversations and the written memoirs of the main characters. We think we’re discovering ‘facts’ at the same pace as journalist Karen (Lohman), until we realise that she too plays a key role in the mystery. Everything and everyone has to be constantly reassessed.
The director is aided in his deception by flawless performances from Bacon and Firth. The tension in their characters’ chummy double act is unsettling; these men seem to be simultaneously friends and enemies to each other, and simultaneously seductive and repellent to the girl who’s digging into their past. Egoyan’s recreation of their ’50s showbiz world may be lovingly detailed, but his dissection of this not-so-innocent era shows neither pity nor nostalgic restraint.
Verdict: A rare film in which the style is the substance. Beneath the characters’ public facades and the story’s cool surface lurk powerful secrets whose final revelations repay our patience.
Chicago Sun-Times (Oct 28, 2005, by Roger Ebert) - 3 out of 4 stars
"Where the Truth Lies" is film noir right down to the plot we can barely track; we're reminded of William Faulkner asking Raymond Chandler who did it in "The Big Sleep" and Chandler saying he wasn't sure. Certainly somebody did it in "Where the Truth Lies," or how would a dead waitress from Miami end up in a bathtub in Atlantic City? The waitress was last seen in the Miami suite of Lanny Morris and Vince Collins, two famous 1950s entertainers. Their alibi: They were on TV doing their polio telethon, and then got directly on a plane and flew to New York with a lot of other people, and had a police escort to their hotel, where the body was awaiting them.
Atom Egoyan, no stranger to labyrinthine plots, makes this one into a whodunit puzzle crossed with some faraway echoes of "Sunset Boulevard," as an entertainer is confronted with events from the past that might best be left forgotten. The movie takes place in 1957 and 1972, and both of those years involve the crucial participation of beautiful young blondes who want to interview the two stars.
In 1957, Morris (Kevin Bacon) and Collins (Colin Firth) are at the height of their fame, doing a nightclub act not a million miles apart from Martin and Lewis. The secret of their round-the-clock energy is the use of pills, lots of pills from their Dr. Feelgood, which give them more urgency than they need in the realm of sex. A college student named Maureen O'Flaherty (Rachel Blanchard) arrives at their suite with room service, and when they suggest another kind of service, she seems sort of willing. She wants to interview them for her school paper.
It is Maureen who is found dead in Atlantic City, leading to a mystery that is never solved, and to the breakup of Morris and Collins. Flash forward to 1972, and another would-be reporter, Karen O'Connor (Alison Lohman). Still in her mid-20s, she negotiates a $1 million book contract for Collins, who needs the money, but tells him he will have to talk about the murder of Maureen O'Flaherty. What Collins doesn't know is that Karen earlier met Lanny Morris on an airplane, followed him to his hotel room, and was dumped the next morning. What a rotter. What neither man knows is that Karen first met them in 1957, when as a young polio victim she appeared on their telethon. Nor does she know that Morris' tears as he talked to her were inspired not by her plight but by his knowledge that a dead waitress was on the sofa in their hotel suite.
Who killed the waitress, and why? It's a classic locked room mystery; all the relevant doors were locked from the inside, and so either man could have done it. But what if neither did? One imagines Ellery Queen rubbing his hands and getting down to work.
The attempts of Karen O'Connor to get Collins to talk are complicated by his own secrecy, financial need, lust, and general depravity. From his hillside mansion in Los Angeles, he lives in lonely isolation, happy to come and go as he pleases. His former partner Morris maintains an office and is apparently more active in showbiz, and both of them have reasons to pressure and mislead the young woman.
Because I have seen " Where the Truth Lies" twice and enjoyed it more when I understood its secrets, I don't understand why several critics have found Alison Lohman wrong for the job of playing the reporter in 1972. Is she too young? If she was nine in 1957, she would be 24 in 1972. Would a publisher give her such responsibility? If she can really deliver Collins, maybe one would—and the money depends on delivering. Is it a coincidence that Miss O'Connor looks something like Miss O'Flaherty? No, not if what she represents for both men is an eerie shadow from the past.
The movie departs from film noir and enters the characteristic world of Atom Egoyan in its depiction of sex. Both blondes, and a third one I will not describe, are involved in fairly specific sex scenes with one or both men, and the sad and desperate nature of this sex is a reminder of such Egoyan films as "Exotica." The MPAA rated the film NC-17 and refused an appeal, so it's being released unrated, but the sex really isn't the point of the scenes in question; it's the application of power, and the way that showbiz success can give stars unsavory leverage with young women who are more impressed than they should be.
Kevin Bacon is on a roll right now after several good roles, and here he channels diabolical sleaze while mugging joylessly before the telethon cameras. His relationship with the Colin Firth character involves love and hate and perhaps more furtive feelings. There is a stunning scene in a nightclub where a drunk insults Morris, and Collins invites him backstage for a terrifying demonstration of precisely how those happy pills do not make everyone equally happy.
Lohman has the central role. I've known young reporters like her. Some of them may be reading this review. You know who you are. She is smart, sexy, hungering for a big story, burning with ambition, and (most dangerous all) still harboring idealistic delusions. Would a young woman like this find herself suddenly inside two lives of secrecy and denial? Yes, more easily than Kitty Kelly would, because she doesn't seem to represent a threat. Her youth is crucial because in some way the danger Maureen O'Flaherty walked into is still potentially there.
There's another way in which the movie works, and that's through the introduction of an unexpected character, Maureen's mother. Another director might handle the showbiz and the murder and intrigue with dispatch, but Egoyan thinks about the emotional cost to the characters, as he also did in "Felicia's Journey." The mother and the young reporter have a meeting during which we discover the single good reason why the solution to the murder should not be revealed. It is a flawed reason, because it depends on the wrong solution, but that isn't the point: It functions to end the film in poignancy rather than sensation.
Seattle Post-Intelligencer (Oct 28, 2005, by William Arnold)
Atom Egoyan's eerily fascinating new film, "Where the Truth Lies," has a distinct similarity to last week's "Capote." It too is an examination of a crime of the late-1950s seen through the eyes of a journalist who shamelessly cons her sources. Only this crime is fictional, and by the time we get through the director's usual process of stripping away the layers and looking at the situation from various perspectives, it's impossible to make any easy moral judgments about anyone involved...
Be warned also that the film suffers from a somewhat weak and annoying performance from Lohman ("Big Fish," "Matchstick Men"), and the fact that, no matter how hard one strains, it's impossible to imagine Bacon and Firth as a team that has won America's heart. But if their chemistry is unconvincing as a comedy duo, each gives a superb performance of a man forever maimed by the indulgence of fame. Few movies have more wrenchingly, or accurately, encapsulated the personal cost of being a celebrity in America.
[L]ike the best of Egoyan's work ("Exotica," "The Sweet Hereafter")—a fascinating ride through morally ambiguous territory to a place you've never been before. [Full review]
The Oregonian (Oct 28, 2005, by Shawn Levy)
Vince/Dean and Lanny/Jerry are played, respectively, by Colin Firth and Kevin Bacon, and in their performances the two continue to maintain the very high levels of work they've delivered in the past decade or so. As Vince, Firth has a simmering quality and is able to convey temper, appetite and pain in brief, hidden flashes; as in so many English films, he's a man whose outer reserve is a mere facade obscuring a more tempestuous interior. As Lanny, Bacon is sexy and snide and antic and menacing and seductive and cruel; his work here recalls his recent daring roles in "Telling Lies in America," "The Woodsman" and "Wild Things" (where, as here, ladies and gents, he is plenty naked). Neither actor does an impression of the fellow on whom his character is based, and yet something of the original pair's essence shines through the performances.
Still, with its impressive simulations of two distinct eras of excess, with its bracingly frank sexuality and, especially, with Firth and Bacon so powerful in their roles, "Where the Truth Lies" haunts... [Full review]
MTV (Oct 21, 2005, by Kurt Loder)
Director Atom Egoyan's hypnotic new movie is a meditation on truth, identity, innocence and murder. It's a mystery that becomes more and more mysterious as it moves along, and even at the end you may not be sure you've read all of it right. The leads—Kevin Bacon, Colin Firth, and Alison Lohman—are extraordinarily good in ways they haven't been before, and they negotiate the film's startlingly graphic sex scenes with bold assurance. The picture is a classic film noir in tone—it's suffused with seediness and unsavory secrets; but Egoyan has dragged the genre out of the shadows among which it was born and into the sparkling, almost stage-managed sunlight of Miami and Los Angeles, where the story's creepiness seems even more starkly perverse....
Well, it would be wrong to reveal too much of the movie's madly intricate plot, and very hard to do, anyway—it's a puzzle palace filled with locked rooms and dubious keys that stick at every turn. We're constantly having to revise our understanding of what's going on. The relationship between Lanny and Vince is an ever-shifting enigma, and when the soon-to-be-dead Maureen puts in a flashback appearance, even she turns out to be not at all what we expected.
Kevin Bacon, Colin Firth and Alison Lohman might seem an oddly matched set of actors, but their performances mesh with remarkable finesse. Bacon, playing a character who's essentially a showbiz slimeball, kitted out in garish, '70s-style neck-scarves and aggressively colorful tight trousers, still manages to suggest glimmers of decency beneath the sleaze. Firth uses his characteristic inwardness to depict a man who may be unreadable even to himself. And Lohman, with her creamy complexion framed by radiant strawberry-blonde hair, and photographed to look as if she's lit from within by a bundle of sunbeams, is the perfect incarnation of innocence waiting to be defiled. And, in this brilliantly nasty movie, not waiting all that long.
San Francisco Chronicle (Oct 21, 2005, by Ruthe Stein)
"Truth" veers between the two time periods. You find yourself waiting for the flashbacks to the '50s because they have an intriguing inside-show-business feel and a nonstop energy fueled by Bacon and Firth's manic impressions of a comedy duo. Bacon has the showier role, and he wrings everything he can out of it. But Firth is equally impressive, especially in moments when Collins lets down his cool guard.
San Francisco Examiner (Oct 20, 2005, by Anita Katz) - **½
But shabby Egoyan is still watchable cinema, and the film has merit as an atmospheric depiction of people’s unsavory zones. More seamy than steamy (despite its initial NC-17 rating), it’s engrossing in this regard. The contrast of onstage glitz with offstage baseness comes across vibrantly. Every hallway feels infected with the sordidness of what may be transpiring behind doors on either side.
The cast is two-thirds effective in conveying these factors. Lohman’s Karen seems more like Nancy Drew than a compromised noir femme. Bacon and Firth, however, nail Lanny and Vince. In addition to oozing requisite sleaze, they suggest something pained and damaged in these guys and, consequently, stoke your deeper interest. Clearly in sync with Egoyan’s mislaid better instincts, they hint at the character-rich sizzler that this movie should have been.
Los Angeles Times (Oct 14, 2005, by Carina Chocano)
In "Where the Truth Lies," the 10th feature film by prolific Canadian filmmaker Atom Egoyan, Colin Firth and Kevin Bacon play Vince Collins and Lanny Morris, a comedy song-and-dance team with a striking resemblance to Martin and Lewis, except one is British and the other not as weird.
Shuttling between the 1950s, when the act was at its apex, and the 1970s, after the formerly inseparable duo has mysteriously parted company, the film follows the efforts of an ambitious young journalist, Karen O'Connor (Alison Lohman), to uncover the truth behind their bust-up. Karen has a personal as well as a professional stake in the story of Lanny and Vince, as she happened to appear on one of their popular polio telethons as a child, moving Lanny to tears. Lanny, as it happens, had other things to cry about that day, and eventually Karen learns a little something about worshiping false idols—not that she's the model of probity herself.
There, in a gorgeously shot and designed (by Paul Sarossy and Phillip Barker, respectively) nutshell, is the thrust of the story: In Hollywood, things are not always as they seem. Believe it, baby.
As if this weren't enough to cope with all at once, the film also advances the notion that journalists can be a sneaky, underhanded bunch capable of doing anything for a story. That goes double for sexy young journalists in backless pantsuits and disco eye shadow, especially when they're given large advances by major publishing companies and told to go out and bring home the dirt.
So Karen meets with Vince in a smoky Hollywood bar to persuade him to collaborate—as in cough up the scoop on exactly what happened to the beautiful girl who turned up dead in their hotel room lo those many years ago.
Sex, drugs, intrigue, murder, extortion, betrayal—it's all in there, every which way. Actually, mostly back and forth. As its convertible title suggests, "Where the Truth Lies" is big on the Manichean dualism in everything. Straight man and comic, interviewer and subject, ingénue and jaded cynic, star and servile nobody—each is as neatly reversible as a J. Crew windbreaker, if you just know where to tug.
On her way back to New York after her tête-à-tête with Vince, Karen happens to land in the first-class seat next to Lanny's. Lanny, meanwhile, has no idea that she and the journalist he's recently authorized his lawyer to show portions of his memoir-in-progress to, to try to dissuade her from proceeding with her own project, are one and the same nubile youngster.
The movie calls to mind some of Egoyan's earlier work, before he made films like "The Sweet Hereafter," in that axes are ground into fine points. Firth and Bacon bring enough talent and experience to their not very realistic characters to breathe some life into them, but poor Lohman, who is lovely, is stuck playing a symbol in fabulous outfits.
To give much more away would spoil the movie's simple if serviceable twists, which keep the mystery humming along at a decent clip.
But the real reason to see it is its style, which sets an otherwise fairly unremarkable whodunit in a seedy, lite-Lynchian wonderland that's enjoyable to hang out in for a while.
The dialogue too is riddled with silly-noir pleasures, as when Karen's publisher tells her editor, "We've leased an oil well called Vince Collins and granted Ms. O'Connor the right to tap. I think we have a responsibility to monitor the drilling." Now that's the kind of mythic, silver-tongued glamour that attracts a girl to publishing.
Too bad nothing is as it seems.
Newsday (Oct 14, 2005, by Jan Stuart)
Colin Firth and a sensationally vulgar Kevin Bacon star as a former '50s comedy team embroiled in an unsolved murder. The multiple narratives of Atom Egoyan's meta film noir are as dizzying and self-reflexive as a series of Chinese boxes.
In that new Wallace & Gromit movie, ace inventor Wallace comes up with a Mind-O-Matic machine that exchanges thought processes from one creature to another. If that hard-boiled detective novelist Mickey Spillane could have done a Mind-O-Matic number on '50s duo Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin, the result might resemble something like Atom Egoyan's "Where the Truth Lies."
A brain-twisting mystery that vaults among multiple time frames and narrators, "Where the Truth Lies" stars Colin Firth and Kevin Bacon as Vince Collins and Lanny Morris, a Martin & Lewis-like comedy team who are implicated in the unsolved murder of a hotel worker during their late '50s heyday. Fifteen years later, the estranged entertainers are compelled to dredge up their past by a determined young reporter (Alison Lohman) researching a tell-all piece about their breakup....
Egoyan, the Canadian director behind such emotionally unsettling, erotically ambiguous works as "Exotica," "The Adjuster" and "Felicia's Journey," would never be content with a simple film-noir pastiche. He ups the ante with both form and content to weave an intoxicatingly lurid cobweb of sex, drugs and lies that subverts our reading of the truth at every turn.
"Where the Truth Lies"—out-Spillaneing Spillane with a teeming array of willful mobsters, willing dames and wily sexual escapades—may be a tad too complicated for its boilerplate denouement. Where the problem lies is with the underripe and miscast Lohman, who is as artificially coiffed, lipsticked and hard-bitten as a sweet-16 drama queen rehearsing a summer camp staging of "L.A. Confidential."
Associated Press (Oct 13, 2005, by Christy Lemire)
The menage a trois that serves as the climax of “Where the Truth Lies” has prompted a bit of a tizzy since the film screened at Cannes in May. The scene—featuring Kevin Bacon and Colin Firth as Jerry-and-Dean-type ’50s entertainers and Rachel Blanchard as a hotel employee who gives new meaning to the term “room service”— initially was considered racy enough to merit the dreaded NC-17 rating from the Motion Picture Association of America. Bernardo Bertolucci’s “The Dreamers” was in a similar quandary last year. It went out with the NC-17 tag; “Where the Truth Lies,” meanwhile, will appear with no rating—which filmmakers can opt to do.
After seeing the film, though, you’re left to wonder: Is that all there is? Yes, the sex is sexy, but that’s not the point. It’s in no way shockingly graphic—it’s not like “9 Songs” or “Sex and Lucia.” Presumably it’s the implication of what these characters are doing that’s got people all worked up.
Which is a shame. Because there’s a lot more going on in Atom Egoyan’s film that’s worth thinking about afterward—namely the mood, which is glitzy and sumptuous; and the performances, which are striking and even surprising, especially from Firth as the Dean Martin figure. It’s a joy to watch him play the bad boy after a string of gentlemanly roles in period pieces and the “Bridget Jones” movies.
And Bacon seems to be channeling Jerry Lewis in full swagger, though he’s even more effective when his character is long past his prime, trying to look cool with sideburns and an ascot but sadly aware of the neediness beneath his bravado.
But here’s something else you may find yourself asking afterward: Is Egoyan serious?
With this tale of sex, death and deception, which the director adapted from the novel by Rupert Holmes (yes, the pina colada song guy), he wallows so devilishly in the conventions of film noir, he approaches parody. The melodramatic voiceover (courtesy of Alison Lohman as the intrepid girl reporter), the glamorous and gritty settings, the obsession with the ugly side of show business—Egoyan takes them all and whips them up into a fizzy cocktail that’s intoxicating but also flummoxing.
Part of the problem is his propensity for jumping back and forth in time, from 1972 Los Angeles to 15 years earlier, when a beautiful young fan turned up dead in the duo’s hotel suite bathtub after a drug-and champagne-fueled threesome. Firth’s Vince Collins and Bacon’s Lanny Morris were never accused in her death, but the event destroyed their act and their friendship.
Lohman, as ambitious young entertainment reporter Karen O’Connor, is assigned to write the story of what happened that night. (“And the girl, Maureen,” she asks Vince intensely during their first meeting, just as the music swells. “What happened to Maureen O’Flaherty?”) But she’s doing so at the same time Lanny is working on his memoirs.
Besides leaping around too frequently in time, Egoyan also jarringly alternates “Rashomon”-style between Lanny’s version of the events, Vince’s version (as he tells them to Karen) and Karen’s own take on what happened as she probes deeper. Of course they all turn out to be unreliable narrators—and as evidenced in his earlier films, including “Felicia’s Journey,” Egoyan likes to provide disturbing twists through the revelation of his characters’ twisted dark sides.
Karen herself gets entangled emotionally with both men, which lands her in a drug-induced tryst with a pretty blond in an Alice-in-Wonderland get-up, the lights from the shimmering backyard pool illuminating their activities in the living room of Vince’s modern Hollywood Hills mansion. Sound like something out of “Mulholland Drive?” Yes, a great deal of “Where the Truth Lies” comes across as vaguely David Lynchian, both tonally and in the striking, sometimes glowing visuals. And it all might leave you with the same feeling you get after one of Lynch’s films: not totally sure about everything you just saw, but too dazzled to care.
Entertainment Weekly (Oct 12, 2005, by Owen Gleiberman) - B+
As twisty and sophisticated as they were, a lot of the old film noirs had a barely disguised salacious undertow. The women (Lana, Rita, Barbara) were high priestesses of nasty pleasure, and the films coasted, in essence, on our desire to see their carnality laid bare. Where the Truth Lies, Atom Egoyan's sexy, tantalizing, and befuddling noir murder mystery, works in a similar fashion. Cutting between two very different eras and moods, the jaunty submerged darkness of 1957 and the sunlit jadedness of 1972, Egoyan, adapting a novel by Rupert Holmes, unwraps the tale of a team of comedy legends, Lanny Morris (Kevin Bacon) and Vince Collins (Colin Firth), who are clearly meant to be a fictionalized takeoff on Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. In the '50s, the two are riding high, and Egoyan stages their nightclub and telethon appearances, as well as their after-hours hanky-panky in the company of groupies and mobsters, with a juicy inside-showbiz knowingness. But then the body of a woman, apparently drowned, is discovered in their hotel bathtub, and though neither man is charged with a crime, their career crashes to a halt.
Cut to the early '70s, when Karen O'Connor (Alison Lohman), an aspiring journalist, pursues each of them to uncover the heart of their hidden scandal. She's far from objective: As a girl, she appeared on their polio telethon, and her relationship to both men, especially Kevin Bacon's rakish Lanny, is that of a former Lolita ardently pursuing her spiritual Humbert. Lohman, who has peachy skin and the loveliest of overbites, acts with the breathy enthusiasm of a very cagey starlet, and the fact that it's genuinely hard to tell whether she's a slightly amateurish ingenue or a good actress playing innocent is intrinsic to the movie's appeal.
For much of Where the Truth Lies, the prospect of Karen's defilement lingers, and Egoyan, who has made the destructive attraction of older men to younger girls the driving obsession of his work, knows how to exploit our voyeurism. A mood of lush romantic decadence—sleaze made enigmatic—hovers over Where the Truth Lies, which has a score that works so hard to evoke Vertigo that it may leave you dizzy. I swooned, at times, though I would have done so more freely if Egoyan the mad academic formalist, tinkering with structure and ''unreliable narrators,'' didn't have a way of tripping up his own spell.
The movie's voyeurism carries over to the '50s scenes, which, if anything, are even more lubricious. Lanny and Vince's dance of ego and intimacy is at the heart of Where the Truth Lies. Bacon plays Lanny with a rotting wolfish charm, and he and Firth, with his flips of politeness and rage, make the film's big secret feel right. That the crucial revelation scene got the film threatened with the taint of NC-17 (it's now unrated) only proves that sin truly is in the eye of the beholder.
Village Voice (Oct 7, 2005, by J. Hoberman)
So why did those guys, the smooth singer and the crazy nut—not Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis but "Vince Collins" and "Lanny Morris"—break up their fabulously successful act? And what did that have to do with the lovely young corpse planted by the New Jersey mob or maybe the ghost of Fatty Arbuckle in their hotel suite bathtub on the eve of the team's ultimate telethon?
Atom Egoyan excavates the alternate history of our times in this tawdry yet stilted historical noir, adapted from Rupert Holmes's giddy 2003 crime novel and opening, in a press agent's dream of cosmic coincidence, only days before the pub date of Jerry Lewis's tell-some memoir Dean & Me (A Love Story). Set in the early '70s, on the eve of Watergate (when, as we now know, every aspect of American life was hopelessly crass and ruled by conspiracy), the movie triangulates estranged Collins and Morris with an ambitious young celebrity journalist (Alison Lohman). Some 15 years after the scandal and the guys' subsequent divorce, she's interviewing Vince (Colin Firth) for a tell-all memoir.
Not that the name Richard Nixon is ever uttered. Flashbacks to Collins and Morris's nightclub and bedroom antics—"we were gods," one of them muses—are complicated by the revelation that the young Ms. O'Connor (also played, in a surreal touch, by Lohman) was actually at the fateful telethon, as well as by the manuscript she receives unsolicited from Lanny (Kevin Bacon) or his minions in an attempt to sugar her off the case. Things get even weirder when the high-flying journalist meets the divine Lanny 40,000 feet in the air en route from Los Angeles to New York.
As its title suggests, Where the Truth Lies is a movie of multiple voices. Lush if not entirely coherent, this showbiz Rashomon has continuity, as well as credibility, problems. The scenario keeps returning to Lanny's consciousness and pondering the nature of his personality. Game but not especially funny, Bacon is more effective as the cold, hostile "real" Lanny than as his manic, camera-kissing onstage persona; Firth drifts through the less demanding role of Vince, a sour cross between Dino and Rat Pack secondario Peter Lawford. Lohman is the least likely—and hence most Egoyan-esque—of the corn-fed blonde vixens who proliferate throughout.
A series of nearly inexplicable plot developments leaves the baby-faced journalist caught between the ex-partners—doing one and drugs with the other. This sort of baroque nastiness was a staple of early Egoyan. (Although in keeping with the novel's Lewis Carroll motif, the annual pageant at the Wonderland children's clinic with a band performing "White Rabbit" and everyone wearing bunny ears is an act out of Exotica—particularly as it concludes with an erotic circus back in the Hollywood Hills.) But in this relatively big-budget production, the director's main anxiety seems to be wrapping up the mystery and selling the project. However artfully designed, Where the Truth Lies lacks the conviction of L.A. Confidential, let alone the visionary élan of Mulholland Drive.
What really happened in that hotel room that night? Was it blackmail? Suicide? Feasting on coincidence and dropping clues like bread crumbs as it circles the crime, Where the Truth Lies posits a breakup far more psychosexually charged than anything in Dean & Me (A Love Story). Some critics have found this well-telegraphed twist offensive—and the movie does wind up with a narrative cliché so outrageous as to constitute a Dada provocation. Salvador Dalí would have appreciated Egoyan's use of lobsters, but given how prurient this material is, Where the Truth Lies should really have been more fun.
Toronto Star (Oct 7, 2005, by Peter Howell)
By instructive happenstance, two movies arriving today set the corruption of innocence against the search for truth in false worlds. Atom Egoyan's Where the Truth Lies...examine[s] what happens when a person's soul is exchanged for money, status and thrills.
For Egoyan, this is fertile ground indeed. The Toronto director has long been transfixed by the quest for secrets hidden beneath surface veneers, and Rupert Holmes' ripping debut novel—for which Egoyan also wrote the screenplay—has given him that plus a rollicking rivalry and some raunchy sex.
Where the Truth Lies is at once the most mainstream movie Egoyan has ever made, and the most explicit, as attested by its censored status south of the border, where ninnies have fainted at the sight of Colin Firth's and Kevin Bacon's naked and thrusting buttocks. (Ontarians are made of sterner stuff, fortunately, and they can view the offending derrières with the proviso that an adult accompany those under 18.)
Firth and Bacon star as 1950s superstars Vince Collins and Lanny Morris, very much in the style of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis (although all similarities are officially denied), who are called to account in the 1970s for the gruesome murder of a woman that occurred in their hotel room during their heyday. The inquisition is led by muckraking author Karen O'Connor (Alison Lohman). She wants to know exactly what happened to the gorgeous and available room-service hostess Maureen O'Flaherty (Rachel Blanchard) on that day in 1959, and also why the previously inseparable Collins and Morris suddenly severed their relationship that very night.
It's the stuff of grand intrigue, and Egoyan relishes it, particularly in the casting of Firth, Bacon and Blanchard. As the boffing and bashing Collins and Morris, Firth and Bacon look as if they've attended more than a few wild Hollywood parties, as indeed they certainly have. The Toronto-born Blanchard, meanwhile, has a look about her that suggests virgin but delivers vixen, a duality essential to her role.
To the world, Collins and Morris are loveable cut-ups who host polio telethons to help sick children. To the women they use and the men they fight, they are something else entirely. All that bad stuff happens in back rooms and hotel suites, away from prying eyes, but a price must be paid.
"Having to be a nice guy is the toughest job in the world, when you're not," Lanny says.
What trips up Egoyan, almost fatally, is the unfortunate choice of Alison Lohman for the crusading yet carnal O'Connor. In Holmes' novel, O'Connor is very much in the vein of a Catherine Keener, a woman who describes herself as "sassy" and who can give as good as she gets, both in and out of bed. This is not at all the woman we see in Lohman, who presents herself as the most timid of creatures. She doesn't for a minute look like a siren who could outfox two canny showmen, and the movie drags whenever she is on the screen. She doesn't even seem as if she could spell her name, let alone write a book. Yielding to his obsession, Egoyan has chosen innocence over cunning, forgetting that it is more interesting to watch a fox get hunted down than to see a rabbit get caught in a snare.
It's times like these that remind you how foolish is it to expect a movie to be exactly like the book, but there you have it. Egoyan has outdone himself, however, in the efficient way he has removed some of Holmes' more extravagant authorial excursions. An entire sub-plot involving a trip to Disneyland has been excised, along with a couple of minor characters, to allow the story to flow more smoothly. Who knew that Egoyan, so often the manic time-shifter, had it in him to write a linear narrative?
Toronto Sun (Oct 7, 2005, by Bruce Kirkland) 3 out of 5 stars
Atom Egoyan's latest opus, the sexually charged murder mystery Where The Truth Lies, is an immaculate conception for all its naughty content. Lush, sleek, beautifully conceived and photographed, the film is a glossy artifact of high cinema. With its intellectual conceits, time-shifting story and challenging ideas, it is a film with a mainstream sheen and an arthouse complexity.
But Where The Truth Lies is also cold and distant and sterile. All despite the naked sexcapades that include orgies and plenty of bare flesh, both male and female. We are left with a contemporary film noir lacking the passion of the noir genre of the 1940s and '50s. Noirs used to rumble, bark, grind. The grit in the characters was as abrasive as sandpaper. Egoyan's film is too clean for the dirty little lies it hides. And only some of the characters belong here.
Colin Firth and Kevin Bacon do belong, and both give edgy performances that toughen the film's spine and make this flawed movie worth watching. In Firth's case, his work may even be a shocker, given how venal his character becomes. Mr. Darcy was never this mean, this callous. As the ugly American Lanny Morris and the slick Briton Vince Collins, Firth and Bacon portray singer-comics of the 1950s. They are a star-studded duo, versatile entertainers like Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, although this is not their real-life story.
In the movie, Lanny & Vince command nightclubs, flirt with the babes in the audience. They also host their own telethon, ostensibly to raise money for needy children, really to raise their likability quotient. After-hours, off stage, they booze it up, do drugs and do every woman willing to strip and perform sexual acts, sometimes in group orgies. No rules, no limits, no morality. The film explores the changing nature of celebrity and excess. One night, one woman (Rachel Blanchard in a brave support role in which her sexuality is used as a dangerous weapon) ends up naked and dead in the bathtub. Two decades later, a young journalist (Alison Lohman) with a tangential connection to the duo is given the chance to write a tell-all book about their mercurial past career. The film, written by Egoyan and based on a novel by American Rupert Holmes, uses Lohman's awkward, often ill-advised investigation to expose the harsh truths and the lies. Lanny & Vince, like Martin & Lewis, split up long ago in weird circumstances. In the 1970s era, each now has his own agenda, his own memory of what really happened. And how did that woman end up naked and dead?
Egoyan, as he often does, time shifts to re-create the story, stripping away layers and forcing characters to reveal themselves in fragments. In this case, however, he relies on a catalyst who is not up to the task. This is where the film fails. Lohman, looking like a teenager and carrying no weight on screen in this role, is woefully miscast. She is impossible to believe as anything but a flyweight, except in her surprising lesbian encounter. No one would give this girlish woman a million bucks to write an expose. She is no match for Firth's character, so the plot is unbalanced, even unhinged.
There is also a serious problem with the climax-epilogue of the story. As Egoyan tells the tale, he changes the emotional emphasis of the piece in the final scene. The film turns out not to be what we thought it was about all along. Bad move.
BOTTOM LINE: Played at the Cannes and Toronto filmfests. While it boasts many fine qualities, including Colin Firth and Kevin Bacon's lusty performances as a musical comedy duo, Atom Egoyan's opus falls short of satisfaction.
Globe & Mail (Oct 7, 2005 by Liam Lacey) 2-1/2 stars
Count, if you can, the number of time shifts and changes in point of view in the first few minutes of Atom Egoyan's new film, Where the Truth Lies. A blue-tinted black-and-white fifties television show, a naked woman's body in a bathtub. Jump 15 years later. A restaurant. Glide into a voiceover narration—a young journalist, a few magazine covers, some awards—and forward in time to a woman typing.
Rupert Holmes's novel of showbiz backroom sleaze was sassy, slick and straightforward. Egoyan's film is baroque and complicated, a plot that moves from an orbit of disparate elements and then suddenly converges into a vortex of connections. The burden of this jump-about technique is that the investment of attention deserves a proportional emotional and intellectual payoff. With Where the Truth Lies, the telling is diverting but the reward doesn't come.
The plot is another Egoyan fractured fairy tale in the line of Exotica, The Sweet Hereafter and Felicia's Journey, where updated Goldilocks or Little Red Riding Hood heroines make their way through the wicked world. Here, the heroine, Karen O'Connor, is in her 20s but emotionally arrested at the age of 12, when as a polio survivor, she appeared on a telethon with her two showbiz idols, Vince Collins and Lanny Morris, a Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis-style comedy duo.
Karen is played by Alison Lohman (Matchstick Men, White Oleander) and she looks like a little girl dressed in a big girl's clothes. When we first meet her, she's having lunch with Vince (Colin Firth in seventies sideburns and mustache), the Martin-ish half of the team.
The girl reporter, armed with a million-dollar book contract, is not just after a puff piece but a scoop: What's the story behind the dead girl who was found in the men's hotel suite and why did it break up their act 15 years before?
While Karen is pursuing Vince, she gets the cold shoulder from his partner, Lanny (Kevin Bacon), though she is allowed to read the first chapter of his memoirs, in his lawyer's office. A vulgar tell-all about womanizing, backstage violence and pill-popping, it seems designed to make the pair sound as repellent as possible. Or is it a case of confessing to the lesser sin?
Things get complicated when Karen, flying from Los Angeles to New York to meet with her publishers, has a chance encounter with the swaggering Lanny and his slavish valet. Anxious to hide her reporter identity, she assumes the name of a schoolteacher friend. The meeting culminates in a one-night stand, which, even by the casual standards of first-person celebrity journalism, is a bit too up-close and personal.
Moving fluidly in and out of flashbacks and competing voice-overs, there's some trashy retro-fashion fun to be had, especially in the opulent period set design. On the downside, the film is strewn with notes that are not just artificial, but false.
A scene, presumably intended to be comic, featuring all Canadian actors as Karen's magazine bosses apparently sitting in a lobby, is clumsily staged. Periodically, Mychael Danna's score obtrusively dials up Alfred Hitchcock's favourite composer, Bernard Hermann, with churning melodramatic strings, before the score reverts to period pop songs.
The fantasy turns sinister when Karen reaches Vince's Beverly Hills glass house, where he promises her the real story, and then attempts to drug and blackmail her. Karen ends up in a compromising position with a lesbian singer—an Alice in Wonderland look-alike wearing the same dress Karen wore at 12. The singer is first seen, improbably, performing Jefferson Airplane's pro-drug hit, White Rabbit, to a clinic full of seriously ill children. The scene is only surpassed in unbelievability by one in which a star-struck college journalist (Rachel Blanchard) turns into a hardened blackmailer.
Many of these ideas are changes from the novel designed to lend a profundity to the material that doesn't really stick. In the psychological reworking of the tabloid material, the dead girl is a doppelganger for Karen, a part of herself that was buried when she overcame her physical illness. Egoyan includes a grieving mother, a painful back story and a couple of gestures of healing and recognition, but they feel like add-ons to the pulp plot.
The sex scenes, which have earned the film an NC-17 rating in the United States, are the opposite of gratuitous. A couple represent Lanny's doubtful accounts of his sexual exploits. Another is Karen's adolescent fantasy. The three-way sex scene that concerned the American ratings board is simply plot development, and the creepiest sex scene is an expressionist dream sequence, in which the adolescent-looking Karen makes love to her double.
The international cast is a mixed success. Firth and Bacon are good actors with star charisma and their representations of self-hating show-business gods are persuasive enough, but we have to accept their legendary status as entertainers on faith: The few brief fragments of them performing look like the work of second-rate vaudevillians, not legendary comics.
More troublesome is the performance of Lohman, who just doesn't pass muster. Her line deliveries sound adolescent. Instead of intelligence, we get perky, instead of naiveté, a pretty lightness. Film noir isn't necessarily about great acting (remember Kim Novak?), but without some central draw of mystery or allure, the dense narrative around her feels like so much busy business.
Screendaily (May 16, 2005, by Peter Brunette)
Fans of Canadian auteur Atom Egoyan, hoping for a comeback from the multiple missteps of his last film, Ararat, which played at Cannes in 2002, are bound to be disappointed by the director's latest offering, Where The Truth Lies. Based on Rupert Holmes' novel of the same title, the film, which follows the showbiz careers of a comedy duo that will recall Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis for most older viewers, is too smart and ambitious for its own good.
Egoyan's chief virtue and biggest problem has always been his intensely intellectual approach to his filmmaking, and this film is no different. Its excellent re-creation of the ambience of 1950s television and the fine acting by Kevin Bacon do not make up for what seems to be a fatal lack of emotional investment by Egoyan in the project, and the director's ambitions overwhelm his source material...
The Hollywood Reporter (May 13, 2005, by Ray Bennett)
Atom Egoyan has delivered a big, slick and sexy mystery in "Where the Truth Lies," turning the Rupert Holmes novel into a sumptuous tale of show business hype and duplicity.
Boasting a handsome cast, top-flight design and classically evocative music, the film should have no trouble attracting audiences seeking high-style, grownup entertainment. Rich in backstage atmosphere and the glamour of big-time hotels and nightclubs, the movie delves smartly and with considerable wit into the ugly side of the entertainment industry.
In the late '50s, Lanny Morris (Kevin Bacon) and Vince Collins (Colin Firth) are the biggest comedy duo in America. The last thing they need is the naked body of a beautiful blonde in the bathtub of their New Jersey hotel room. In fact, the last thing the comedians do as partners is to deny they had anything to do with the dead woman and they promptly break up their longstanding and hugely successful act.
Fifteen years later, a young writer named Karen O'Connor (Alison Lohman) wins a fat contract from a publisher to write a book about Vince Collins, and it is through her eyes that the secret behind their split is slowly revealed. Using flashbacks told from different points of view, Egoyan traces the lies and deception that have kept the sordid events that followed a Miami telethon from a still-adoring public.
Larry and Vince had been forced by a no-nonsense gangster named Sally Sanmarco (David Hayman) to fly directly from the Miami gig to the opening of his New Jersey nightclub, where the corpse was found.
As O'Connor discovers, many facts were quickly hidden and the comics appear to have covered their tracks cleverly but with their careers pretty much over by the '70s, their mutual desire for public acclaim drives them to reveal a version of the truth.
But the young writer cannot resist being drawn into the pair's intense world of fabrication and celebrity worship. "Having to be a nice guy is the hardest job in the world when you're not," Larry tells her.
Egoyan has enormous fun unpeeling the wrappers of showbiz lore so that we see the hoodlums, the drug taking, kinky sex, and unstoppable violence. Soon O'Connor is wrapped up in it as much as the superstars who may or may not have committed murder.
The film obeys the sometimes strained logic of mystery novels so that there's more than the occasional need to suspend disbelief, but Egoyan's script moves slickly along to a satisfying conclusion.
Bacon is as taut and effective as usual while Firth may prove a revelation to those who have only seen him in period pictures and English comedies. Lohman carries the weight of lead investigator with immense charm and no little grit.
Best of all, the film looks wonderful, and full credit is due to production designer Phillip Barker and costume designer Beth Pasternak. Mychael Danna's music, too, is sly and seductive, adding a touch of noir class to the proceedings.
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