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 answer.

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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