The Good Liar (2019)


Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5.   

USA, 2019, , Screenplay by , based on the novel by Cinematography by Produced by , Music by Production Design by Costume Design by Film Editing by .

Helen Mirren plays a wealthy widow who has gone online in search of companionship, and IT goes very well from the start: a charming Ian McKellen shows up and they begin a friendship that accelerates far too quickly for her testy, suspicious grandson (Russell Tovey). What she does not know about the new man in her life is that McKellen is a high stakes grifter who cons investors out of hundreds of thousands of pounds in bogus business deals, and Mirren and her nearly three million pounds in assets are his next target. Their relationship progresses to sleepovers and they eventually take a trip to Berlin where secrets of his past are revealed but she is not alarmed, lonely as she is and sympathetic enough to keep him around. She’s so committed that she agrees to pool her resources with his and, in doing so, leaves the door wide open for him to take all her cash; that is, of course, until further secrets are unearthed that put the situation in a new light. There’s very little tension in this dramatic thriller, directed by Bill Condon from the book by Nicholas Searle, given that Mirren can’t convincingly play someone naïve enough to fall for McKellen’s line, while McKellen and as his accomplice don’t exactly convince you that they’re the last word in confident confidence men (the slightest obstacle she presents tends to send them into a tizzy).  One wants to throw up their hands and just let her ruin herself given how easily she falls for their line, and then when truths begin to be revealed about what is actually going on, everything is seen in a different light.  The problem is that the revelations don’t click anything into place, they all feel too convenient to go down smoothly, and the portion of the story that has connections to Nazi Germany isn’t established early enough and it seems more like someone abruptly changed the channel to another movie. The overall structure is hard to make fit with this one, the conclusion is thoroughly satisfying but to get to it you must slog your way through a movie whose bright performances aren’t enough to perk up the otherwise dull proceedings.

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