REVIEW — “The Good Liar”
Who isn’t a fan of a good ol’ unraveling mystery? The Good Liar is just that, with the inclusion of two of the best actors of all-time in Ian McKellen and Helen Mirren. The film follows career con-artist Roy Courtnay (McKellen) as he pins his next target, a reasonably wealthy widow named Betty (Mirren) over an internet dating service. As they begin to grow closer with one another and Betty opens her life and home up to Roy, the should-be simple con gets quickly complicated and blurry. One of the most admirable parts of this film is how it always keeps you guessing and switching your perspective on how you view each character. You may have an idea of where this film is heading, but the film does a solid job of subverting your expectations and guesses. Even if you predict that they get from point A to B, the film undeniably takes some swings in how exactly gets to point B.
This is largely in credit to Ian McKellen and Helen Mirren’s performances and chemistry with one another. Both of which are, as I said earlier, two of the best actors of our lifetime – and they instantly give this film merit and a sense of tension you normally wouldn’t have. But this has it before the film even wraps its opening credits. They are both magnetic screen presences, and even just watching them have dinner together or talk about their lives together can be fully fascinating due to how great they are as performers. Bill Condon also does a fairly solid job at directing this film too. While he doesn’t necessarily elevate this material as much as other directors would, he does an admirable job at keeping it quickly paced and engaging at almost every turn.
What prevents The Good Liar from being something truly special that matches its great performances and serviceable direction at hand is the script. It’s not bad by any means – in fact, it is rather solid most of the time. But it’s those occasional bumps in the road that frustrate me so much. There is a large chunk of this film that is wholly entertaining and almost riveting. And then it introduces plot elements that feel largely unnecessary. It almost felt like it would’ve benefited from being simpler and leaner opposed to more convoluted. And on top of feeling a bit clunky and overstuffed, some of the plot elements feel like you have to suspend your disbelief in order to continually go along with the story.
Even with these clunky aspects, I still found The Good Liar to be rather entertaining due to its fast pace and entertaining characters/performances. It’s always fun to see actors of this caliber working together on something like this and both Mirren and McKellen chew the scenery in each and every scene they are in. Far from a perfect film, but it’s still a decent and entertaining watch for all the reasons I mentioned.