Where the Truth Lies: Unrated Theatrical Edition
March 13, 2006
Starring: Kevin Bacon, Colin Firth, Alison Lohman, Sonja Bennett, Rachel Blanchard, Kathryn Winslow, Kristin Adams, Maury Chaykin, Sean Cullen, Gigi Dalka, Rebecca Davis, David Hayman,
Since the critically acclaimed but commercial failure of Felicia’s Journey (1999), Canadian filmmaker Atom Egoyan has been keeping a low profile. He returned to the spotlight in 2005 with a vengeance with Where the Truth Lies. It captured headlines when the director refused to tone down racy sex scenes for its American release. The film was seen by some as an attempt for the auteur to capture a larger, more mainstream audience as fellow Canadian filmmaker David Cronenberg did with A History of Violence (2005). This may be true but this new movie also continues many of the thematic preoccupations that he has explored in several of his other movies.
Lanny Morris (Bacon) and Vince Collins (Firth) are a successful comedy team in the Dean Martin/Jerry Lewis vein in the 1950s when a woman turns up dead in their hotel room from an apparent suicide via a sleeping pills overdose. Even though they both have credible alibis, the ensuing scandal effectively ruins their careers. Fifteen years later, Karen O’Connor (Lohman), a young journalist, revisits the incident and interviews Lanny and Vince as she attempts to uncover what really happened. Karen finds herself torn between her love of the duo and solving this mystery. She is confronted with the classic journalistic dilemma of getting too close to her subject matter, crossing the line so that she becomes part of the story that she is reporting on.
The film cuts back and forth from the ‘50s to the 1970s with both Lenny and Karen narrating, which tends to get a little confusing at times. The use of narration is fine but it tends to be non-linear like the editing and this takes one out of the movie at the beginning. There is too much of it and it’s all over the place which makes it confusing as we are trying to get a handle on what is going on and who everyone is. But once the film hits its stride, finds its own rhythm and we begin to get familiar with all of the characters, it becomes a very absorbing mystery. After awhile you have to stop trying to analyze every line and follow every narrative jump and just let the film wash over you.
We see past Lanny and Vince’s slick, show biz façade and are exposed to their darker side. Lanny, the bawdy comedian is into kinky sex and Vince, the straight man, has a violent temper (as evident in the way he deals with a rude heckler). Kevin Bacon seems to be almost channeling Al Pacino from Donnie Brasco (1997) during the ‘70s era scenes as Lanny has become a world-weary, washed up has-been. He has gotten tired of acting like the nice guy he never was. Bacon delivers an excellent, textured performance as he peels back the layers of his character to reveal Lanny’s true self while still making us wonder if it is just another act for Karen. And the actor conveys this with his sad eyes and perpetually burnt out look. Bacon has only gotten better with age. He is so underrated because he doesn’t go for the showier roles.
The film’s look has that slick, Hollywood glow that mirrors the subject matter and time period, that of the classic Hollywood era. Egoyan does a great job of recreating the opulence of the ‘50s night club era: sumptuous food, beautiful women and lavish hotel suites. It is the epitome of decadence and glamour. He adopts an uncharacteristic polish that is quite a departure stylistically for him. He has crafted a gangster fairy tale, look-wise, with a hyper-real sheen on everything and this acts as a nice contrast to the dark subject matter.
Thematically, Where the Truth Lies fits in with the rest of Egoyan’s body of work. He continues his fascination with exploring mysteries, presenting them like jigsaw puzzles that we and the protagonist must piece together. In Exotica (1994), there was the mystery behind why a traumatized man visits the same stripper at the same club every night. In The Sweet Hereafter (1997), Egoyan explored the real reasons behind a tragic crash that killed a bus full of children. And in Felicia’s Journey, he examined the disturbing inner life of a mild-mannered chef. All of these movies, including Where the Truth lies, involve a death (or deaths) at the centre of the mystery that lead the revelation of buried secrets within someone and the ripple effect this creates.
Like Karen, we are presented with Lanny and Vince’s sides of the story and have to figure out who is telling the truth or complicit in the death of the woman. We are piecing it all together and trying to make sense of it all along with Karen. If you’re willing to stick it out through the confusing first third of the movie, then Where the Truth Lies begins to pay off as we explore these two fascinating characters and what caused the disintegration of their professional relationship.
Included are a collection of deleted scenes that elaborate on Karen’s relationship with her father and little bits that flesh out some of the more ambiguous elements.
“The Making of ‘Where the Truth Lies’” is a montage of behind-the-scenes footage of principal photography. There is no real insight into the origins of the movie, which is a little disappointing.