The Good Lie (2014)
Critic Consensus: The Good Lie sacrifices real-life nuance in order to turn its true story into a Hollywood production, but the results still add up to a compelling, well-acted, and deeply moving drama.
|Rating:||PG-13 (for thematic elements, some violence, brief strong language and drug use)|
|Genre:||Mystery & Suspense, Drama|
|Directed By:||Philippe Falardeau, Shawn Linden|
|Written By:||Margaret Nagle, Shawn Linden|
|In Theaters:||Oct 3, 2014 Wide|
|On DVD:||Dec 23, 2014|
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as Young Mamere
as Young Theo
as Young Jeremiah
as Young Paul
as Young Abital
as Young Gabriel
as Young Daniel
as Young Simon
as Boy (River of Childr...
as Dr. Monyang
as Reverend Trutner
as INS Boston
as INS Kansas City
as Erin Sullivan
as Man In English Class
as Sari Woman In Englis...
as Homeless Woman
as INS Agent
as INS Clerk
as INS Clerk
as Police Officer
as Fargo Boy
as Swedish Official
as Bracelet Soldier
as Refugee Worker
as U.N. Worker
as Guinea Worm Girl
as Village Mother
as Processing Office Wo...
as Immigration Official
as Immigration Official...
as INS Official
as Food Worker
as Party Guest
as Abital's Mother
News & Interviews for The Good Lie
Critic Reviews for The Good Lie
There's a sense that The Good Lie wants to say something profound but the message is as muddled as its delineation of history is.
The main characters are played by actual refugees-two of whom were child soldiers-and their uninflected, authoritative performances compensate for the feel-good simplifications of Margaret Nagle's script.
A well-told tale that illuminates the experiences of the 20,000 "lost boys" (and girls) of Sudan, with such grace, insight and humor, it can be forgiven a few simplifying liberties taken in the name of moving the narrative along.
Strong performances from Arnold Oceng, Ger Duany and Emmanuel Jal ensure that the characters of Mamere, Jeremiah and Paul are never reduced to "exotic" victimhood.
A Unesco educational resource cast in the style of an unreconstructed 1970s sitcom.
Audience Reviews for The Good Lie
A pleasing film that pulls at the heart strings.
The Good Lie may go a little off the deep end with the fish out of water humor, but it succeeds at being a emotional and effective drama with great performances from the entire cast. It follows a group of child African refugees called who had to walk a thousand miles after their homes were destroyed, and 13 years later were brought to America. I thought the beginning of this film was a brilliant tale of survival, and the story that followed was them adjusting to life in America and it worked well because we see the differences between these two worlds and what we take for granted. Some will argue the film got too Hollywood, trying to make these men look like idiots who weren't even taught how to use a telephone before coming here, but if you ignore little things like this you actually have a solid and well directed drama. I very much enjoyed this movie, and I highly recommend it.
REESE IN PIECES - My Review of THE GOOD LIE
Historically, Hollywood has had the best of intentions when depicting a crisis in Africa, but has often felt the need to add a white Hollywood Star to the mix to be the eyes and ears of the story. Think CRY FREEDOM, THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND, or BLOOD DIAMOND to name a few. From the poster, one might think THE GOOD LIE, with its beaming close-up of Oscar Winner Reese Witherspoon towering over a trio of Africans trekking across a savannah, is of the same ilk. Fortunately, the ad is a "good lie", one intended to get butts in seats for a film in which Witherspoon's role takes a backseat to the compelling story of Sudanese refugees trying to survive a brutal Civil War.
Working from a screenplay by Margaret Nagle, French Canadian director Phillippe Falardeau tells the somewhat fictionalized story of "The Lost Boys", children orphaned by a religious war between the largely Muslim Northern Sudanese and the Christian Southerners. Depicted as less of a war and more of a full-scale attack, the lucky who would survive would walk on foot for as much as 1000 miles to refugee camps, such as one in Kenya.
The first act of THE GOOD LIE shows this terrifying struggle through the eyes of Mamere (Arnold Oceng), his sister Abital (Kuoth Wiel), brother Theo (Femi Oguns), and friends Paul (Emmanuel Jal) and Jeremiah (Ger Duany). At the screening I attended, screenwriter Nagle confessed that through her 10 year effort to get this film made, she had to pull a few punches in this section. I'm sure the realities of this situation were way harsher than depicted, but enough is on the screen to stay with you when things shift dramatically to Kansas City. It is here we meet Carrie (Witherspoon), a job counselor charged with helping most of the above find work. Brought to the states by a Catholic charity, Mamere and company don't know what to make of this strange new world. By the same token, Carrie is addled by these immigrants and tries to keep her distance. Although her part is somewhat small, it's refreshing to see a woman who initially can't be bothered, grow to care. She's frosty and just too caught up in a life that needs a rude awakening. It's the journey many moviegoers will take.
The results are sometimes mawkish, but it's difficult to criticize something so well-intentioned. Nagle has the smarts to inject much humor into this story and gives our trio of guys distinct personalities and quirks. These are not perfect, noble men, but victims of post-traumatic stress who struggle to find their place in a world that seemingly doesn't have much use for them. The film is all about perception and shifting points of view. We, the audience, are way ahead of Witherspoon in our understanding of what pre-American life was like for these men, yet we're also ahead of the men in our understanding of things we take for granted here. One moment you're thinking how awful we are as a culture to waste food the way we do, and yet the next you're moved by our ability to be generous.
Each character is distinct, flawed, and highly believable. I rooted for them to succeed, and was heartbroken during their lows. Oceng anchors the film solidly, but Jal and Duany kept me emotionally engaged with their wildly different reactions to their new surroundings. This film is a gentle reminder that every person has a story.
This brings me to my struggle with it. There's no doubt that this is an important story that needed to be told. It's well-acted and has infinite twists and turns. It's smart enough to bring you in close and experience a life, a culture, and a struggle so different from the average westerner. I walked away with a renewed appreciation for sacrifice and acts of kindness. Yet...yet...yet...I wasn't crazy about the film itself. It took me a while to figure out why. It finally dawned on me that while this is a great story, it's not great filmmaking. Falardeau wisely stays out of the way and presents things very matter-of-factly, but it's at the expense of truly memorable or striking juxtapositions of sight and sound. Instead of allowing natural sounds to create a visceral impact, big moments in the film are given big score. In a scene where bodies float down a river, I thought about what a master Steven Spielberg was at showing this in his WAR OF THE WORLDS remake and couldn't help but compare it to the hyped up way it's done in this film. Masters such as Costa-Gavras or Roland Joffe (both of whom also used a white point of view in their films MISSING and THE KILLING FIELDS) would have put a more distinct directorial stamp on THE GOOD LIE. Falardeau, on the other hand, keeps things humming along, but with a somewhat bland, Lifetime movie quality. It's not bad. It's actually quite good. But in a welcome return to social filmmaking, which we hardly see in theaters overcrowded with superheroes and CGI cartoons, I was hoping for a stronger point of view.and CGI cartoons, I was hoping for a stronger point of view.
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