The Good Liar: An Amusing - If Forgettable -Mystery
There’s a certain pleasure to watching The Good Liar. It’s not unlike picking up a well-worn paperback mystery novel off an old bookshelf, creased at the spine and weathered by sun and sand. Sure, it’s somewhat predictable, and the twists and turns are rather silly, but there’s a certain charm to the characters and you can’t help but enjoy the experience - even if it doesn’t stick with you for very long once you’ve closed the book.
Those charms, in this case, come from watching the immensely talented Ian McKellen and Helen Mirren (amazingly, in their first-ever onscreen pairing) see this story through to its end. It follows Roy (McKellan), a moderately successful con artist and fraudster, as he pursues his latest mark, a widow named Betty (Mirren), whom he met through an online dating service. Through an increasingly complicated web of deception, Roy integrates himself into Betty’s life in an attempt to abscond with her savings; what follows is a convoluted and dramatic sequence of revelations that evoke varying degrees of shock and amusement. If that reads a little on the vague side, it’s fully intentional; giving away any level of detail about the plot would seemingly defeat the whole purpose of watching it unfold. Suffice it to say that it’s a moderate treat to see these two British veteran actors get so much screentime (much of it together) and roles with which they clearly have fun, even if the substance of the film lies far beneath their respective talents. McKellen’s dashing con artist is a charming scoundrel, and Mirren’s unassuming widow initially reads a little bland, but both are enigmatic enough to make you want to know more about them. Director Bill Condon does a workmanlike job keeping things moving, and Carter Burwell’s score is typically strong. Unfortunately, the characters aren’t well drawn enough to merit emotional investment, and the film seems more interested in unfolding its various twists than building a compelling narrative. Still though, The Good Liar is an amusing enough diversion to satisfy an afternoon mystery craving, particularly if you’re inclined to enjoy watching a couple of world class thespians outwit one another onscreen - just don’t expect it to stick long after you’ve finished.