Watched Date: 3/23/2020
Right around the time Bill Condon’s The Good Liar came out, there hasn’t been a lot of talk about this thriller starring the likes of Sir Ian McKellen and Helen Mirren. Just looking back at November, it did come out during a crowded month where I can’t say it got lost in the shuffle, but there was very little marketing for it. Despite an intriguing trailer that made it out to be intriguing, it ended up being the kind that’s an easy rental.
What’s the Story: Based on the 2016 novel by Nicholas Searle, career con artist Roy Courtnay (Sir Ian McKellen) can hardly believe his luck when he meets well-to-do widow Betty McLeish (Helen Mirren) online. As Betty opens her life and home to him, Roy is surprised to find himself caring about her, turning what should be a cut-and-dry swindle into the most treacherous tightrope walk of his life.
You see McKellen and Mirren’s names in the main leads, and if you’re a fan of either or both of them, it’s good to say they gave solid performances. Both of them had genuine chemistry that was easy to buy into when they first met. It’s also shocking to know they have never been in anything together before this. Out of the two, it’s definitely McKellen’s movie since he’s the one we’re following, just wondering where his character Roy will get into later on. But if I had to pick who gave the best performance, that would go to Mirren. I also have to mention Jim Carter’s performance as Roy’s partner Vincent, who I was trying to figure out who he was until I realized he is best known for being in Downton Abbey.
Bill Condon’s direction wasn’t half bad from what I saw. His name was another reason why I was looking forward to checking this out because he has shown to be not only a good writer but a capable director, except the last two Twilight movies, and he gets to reunite with McKellen for the fourth time. There wasn’t anything visually amazing about it when the cinematography from Tobias A. Schliessler, but it’s still a good-looking drama. The first half of The Good Liar is where it grabbed my attention, as it was letting us get to know the characters better, and it’s fairly original where it was hard trying to compare it to something else. Since I never read the novel writer Jeffrey Hatcher (Mr. Holmes) adapted this from, it plays itself like the kind of suspense thriller Hitchcock would’ve done when it was alive, but a lot more memorable. Since this involves lying, you also wonder if anybody, especially Roy, could be trusted with anything going on.
Where it paused riding on the entertaining scale was when it wasn’t the smart and captivating story I was hoping for when it wasn’t as thrilling as I thought it would be. When it delved into the second act and onward, it dragged at that moment, and I wondered how everything wasn’t interesting afterward. There was the inclusion of flashback sequences to Roy’s past in 1940s Germany, especially, I wasn’t too fond of whenever it resorted to them, with a plot twist that was supposed to be the biggest reveal of the movie I not only saw coming, but honestly didn’t buy into.
The Good Liar seems like one of those dramas that are suited better for a mature demographic. A plot like this wasn’t captivating to follow until the reveal I didn’t buy at all, but I can see this being a one time watch just for the performances of McKellen and Mirren. Overall, I consider this a disappointment. What’s weird was wondering if I did see this in theaters, I had to think I would be the youngest member of the audience.