The Good Liar

Cast: Helen Mirren, Ian McKellen, Russell Tovey, Jim Carter

Director: Bill Condon


Once again we have another November release with a stacked cast and everything on paper to be an awards contender.  Having Condon, Mirren, and McKellen in your production is almost a sure-fire way to make sure your movie is respectable and that’s certainly the case with The Good Liar.  While it takes a while to get where it’s going, the ability to end on a high note will make it an enjoyable and enticing experience.  Maybe not what New Line Cinema was hoping for as it doesn’t have the impact to be a real awards season player, but The Good Liar will supply audiences with 109 minutes of strong characters and dialogue with two leading performances that are much deeper than they appear.

The film follows Betty McLeish (Mirren), an older retired woman whose husband died a year ago and is looking for a new relationship.  When she meets Roy Courtnay (McKellen), a similarly-aged conman, the two begin a relationship and get close to one another.  While Betty sees this as a romantic and emotional connection, everything is not as it seems as the two of them have secrets that get revealed throughout the movie.  When we look at a movie like The Good Liar which relies almost exclusively on the two leading performances, they need to be magnificent for this movie to work in any capacity.  Luckily, Mirren and McKellen are masters of their craft and make sure that this movie works at the most basic and instinctive of levels.  Of the two actors, McKellen stands out as one of the best antagonists of the year.  For almost every minute that he’s on screen, we can’t wait to see him slip up and fail, and this is a testament to just how captivating his performance is.  He’s so good at showcasing a level of skeeze and sliminess that we rarely see in wide releases and I applaud McKellen for standing out in such a talented cast.  The one thing people may have an issue with is the way the movie drags out and makes us wait until the very end to get any sense of closure.  Yes it does drag a bit, but the conclusion is so satisfying and makes up for some of the slower parts of the movie.  This doesn’t really feel like a traditional crime thriller for most of the movie, so maybe that’s why the ending fulfills that desire.  It feels more like a drama with criminal elements, but the shift to a more thrilling conclusion makes the movie feel much more like we anticipated.  Condon has worked on many films both commercially and critically successful so it’s no surprise that The Good Liar works in the context that’s been set up.  The Good Liar may not be a perfect movie, but based on how captivating the performances and the general setup are, The Good Liar will end up overlooked and underrated compared to some of the more critically-acclaimed movies of 2019.

Overall, everything about The Good Liar works on paper and there are moments where the movie is truly spectacular, but it’s not consistently strong enough to be one of the best movies of the year.  It’s not really a miss for McKellen or Mirren since it’s still a very good movie, but I’m sure they were expecting more considering the initial buzz around it.  Maybe if the studios had done a better job of promoting it the movie would’ve been more of a hit than the respectable numbers it put up, but that’s not necessarily the film’s fault.  The Good Liar isn’t going to be for everyone, but for those who like mysterious and interesting thrillers will enjoy watching two great actors battle for 109 minutes.

Overall Score: 7/10

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