Where the Truth Lies (Canada/United Kingdom/United States, 2005)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

Welcome to the lurid world of Atom Egoyan, B-grade schlock filmmaker. Until seeing Where the Truth Lies, I never would have considered applying this title to Egoyan, the eclectic filmmaker of some of the '90s most compelling features (Exotica and The Sweet Hereafter, to name a pair). But the evidence speaks for itself. Where the Truth Lies is a potboiler (based on the novel by "Pina Colada" songwriter Rupert Holmes) - a whodunnit/whydunnit filled to the brim with genre clich├ęs. It's compelling in the way many B-movies are - cheap, sleazy, and lacking the depth we have come to associate with this director.

The difference between a good potboiler and a bad one comes down to tone, and Egoyan chooses the wrong approach. Where the Truth Lies is slow and dreamy when it should be light and self-mocking. This is Brian De Palma material. The plotline is pure cheese down to the incessant voiceover and needlessly explicit exposition. To add proverbial insult to injury, not only is the movie poorly written, but it is at times boring.

The year is 1972. Journalist Karen O'Connor (Alison Lohman) is writing a tell-all book about her girlhood heroes: '50s variety show hosts Lanny Morris (Kevin Bacon) and Vince Collins (Colin Firth). A Yank and a Brit, they played off one another well - Lanny as pleasure and Vince as control. There are two subjects that interest Karen in particular, why the Martin-and-Lewis-esque team broke up and what the real story was behind the death of a young woman (Rachel Blanchard) whose body was found in the bathtub of their hotel suite 15 years ago. To get the information she needs, Karen cultivates relationships with both men - a professional one with Vince and a sexual one with Lanny. The deeper she digs, the more unsavory are the details she uncovers about a night of unbridled sex in a Miami hotel room.

As is typically the case with this type of movie, the plot is founded on contrivances. Even if you accept these, Where the Truth Lies isn't airtight. Thematically, there's a void. Initially, it looks like Egoyan may be making a statement about the public versus private personas of celebrities ("Having to be a nice guy is the toughest job in the world when you aren't"), but this is quickly abandoned. Character development is perfunctory - there's just enough to satisfy the narrative.

Colin Firth and Kevin Bacon give exceptional performances. They are better than the material deserves. Firth represents reserved cool and Bacon is rakish charm. Alison Lohman is miscast. Not only is she too young to be convincing, but her performance is amateurish. I blame this on Egoyan, since Lohman impressed in two earlier movies, White Oleander and Matchstick Men.

The silver lining is that the movie is loaded with sex and nudity. At least four women bare breasts (and more), and both Firth and Bacon show quite a bit. Supposedly, a "key" threesome is the reason for the film's initial NC-17 rating (it is being released unrated), but I found this sequence to be surprisingly tame. I guess the MPAA becomes skittish when a sex scene has both homosexual and heterosexual connotations. However, if the blue elements of Where the Truth Lies are not enough to keep you involved, the movie fails. Egoyan's magic with images and Mychael Danna's haunting score aren't enough to salvage a plot that might seem too silly for even the average dime novel.

Where the Truth Lies (Canada/United Kingdom/United States, 2005)

Run Time: 1:48
U.S. Release Date: 2005-10-14
MPAA Rating: "NR" (Sexual Situations, Nudity, Violence, Profanity)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1