Where the Truth Lies
Atom Egoyan and Rupert Holmes, 2005
A young writer in 1972 investigates the circumstances behind the
discovery in 1957 of a dead girl in the hotel suite of a very thinly
disguised version of Martin and Lewis.
Evaluation and commentary
This is a typical Atom Egoyan film. There is
A Moment (which, this being an Egoyan film, is recorded — in this
case it's part of a Jerry-Lewis-style telethon) which seems innocuous
enough when we first see it. As the film goes on and we see backstory
filled in and watch lives intersect, we discover its true significance.
But anyone can write a puzzle. The trick is making us care about the
Egoyan is not very good at doing that. The first movie of his that I
ever saw was The Sweet Hereafter, which immediately became my
favorite movie — I liked it enough that I went back and saw it
again the very next day. Then I read the book by Russell Banks, and
disliked it. This made Egoyan seem like even more of a genius, to be
able to create such a wonderful film from dubious source material.
But then I saw Exotica and Felicia's Journey, which were
nowhere near as good... nor even especially good at all, really. And
now, having seen Where the Truth Lies, I have come to conclude
that The Sweet Hereafter was a perfect match of two artists
each supplying what the other lacked. Egoyan brought to The Sweet
Hereafter the structure and beauty the novel needed; Banks supplied
the emotional depth that Egoyan's other films strive for and fail to
achieve. Where the Truth Lies, for instance, is based on a
mystery novel by Rupert Holmes, and has all the depth of Holmes's most
famous work, "The Piña Colada Song." Egoyan can't overcome this
handicap. The revelations that lead to the solution of the mystery and
the Real Meaning of That Moment elicit little more than shrugs.
Also, while The Sweet Hereafter had Ian Holm and Sarah Polley to
anchor the story though their acting, the heavy narrative lifting in
Where the Truth Lies is left to Kevin Bacon and Alison Lohman,
and Lohman in particular isn't really up to the job. The Sweet
Hereafter had the Canadian Rockies to show off; Where the Truth
Lies offers handsomely photographed 1950s hotels and 1970s hilltop
mansions, which make it a better looking movie than most but still not
up to the standard of its predecessor. A lot of Egoyan's work revolves
around performance — striptease in Exotica, a cooking show
in Felicia's Journey — and The Sweet Hereafter is
no exception, with Sarah Polley's songs standing out as a particular
highlight (it's the one movie soundtrack I own). Where the Truth
Lies has a lot of Martin and Lewis in it, which is great for the
octogenarians in the audience, I guess.
I will give Where the Truth Lies this, though: even though the
solutions to its main mysteries are pretty much exactly what you expect,
it is aware of the fact that it is creating subsidiary mysteries along
the way that are significantly more interesting. IE, if you're going
to make a particular character an erotic focus of the film, it
automatically raises the question, "Okay, so what's under that dress?"
Deliberately raising the question and then not revealing the answer
turns a film into a tease. Where the Truth Lies is pretty
tame, but it isn't a tease. But the MPAA doesn't like that and so it
got an NC-17. Sigh.
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