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The Invention of Lying

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Ricky Gervais
Matthew Robinson
Produced by Ricky Gervais
Dan Lin
Lynda Obst
Oly Obst
Written by Ricky Gervais
Matthew Robinson
Narrated by Ricky Gervais
Starring Ricky Gervais
Jennifer Garner
Jonah Hill
Louis C.K.
Christopher Guest
Rob Lowe
Tina Fey
Music by Tim Atack
Cinematography Tim Surhstedt
Editing by Chris Gill
Studio Radar Pictures
Media Rights Capital
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
(United States/Canada)
Universal Pictures
Focus Features(UK/International)
Release date(s) September 14, 2009 (2009-09-14)
October 2, 2009
Running time 100 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $18.5 million[1]
Gross revenue $32,054,454[2]

The Invention of Lying (2009) is an American high concept romantic comedy, written and directed by Ricky Gervais and Matthew Robinson. It stars the former and Jennifer Garner, and also features Louis C.K., Rob Lowe and Tina Fey. The film was released in the United States and United Kingdom on October 2, 2009.



The film is set in an alternate reality in which no one has ever lied and where people speak their minds, blurting out very blunt remarks and opinions that people in the real world would normally keep to themselves. The concepts of fiction, imagination, and speculation do not exist which results in the movie industry being limited to documentary-style historical readings (some of which are about the life of Napoleon from 1812-1813, the Industrial Revolution, and invention of the fork), with television commercials being straightforward, and an absence of religion.

Mark Bellison (Ricky Gervais) is an unsuccessful lecture-film writer who is told by everyone that he is a fat loser. He goes out on a date with Anna McDoogles (Jennifer Garner) who bluntly states to Mark that she is not attracted to him due to his looks and unsuccessful financial situation but is going out with him to satisfy her extremely prejudicial mother who doesn't want her to be alone for the rest of her life. After the date she admits that she had a better time than she thought she would.

The next day Mark is fired from his job due to a lack of viewership interest in his films and his landlord evicts him for being $500 short of rent. Depressed, he goes to the bank in order to close his account and use the money to have his stuff moved out of his apartment. The computers are down but since society is one of full honesty the teller asks Mark how much money he has and Bellison has an epiphany, as we see his brain suddenly think of the first lie ever told: $800. Bellison then says he has $800 in his bank account. The computer comes back online and shows his balance at $300, but the teller gives him the full $800, assuming that the computer made a mistake. He realises the potential of lying and attempts to use this immensely peculiar invention believing his ability will astound people. He demonstrates lying to his friends but they are unable to comprehend the concept and still believe everything he says.

Mark tests his discovery of lying by telling a woman that the world will end unless she has sex with him at that very moment but backs out at the last minute by claiming to have a phone call from NASA telling him the world is not going to end now. He then saves his friend from a DUI by simply telling the officer that his friend isn't drunk but just sick from something else. They then go to a casino and get rich by Mark telling the casino staff that he's won every game. Then he lies to others in hope that they will feel better about themselves and improve their relationships. He writes a fictitious screenplay about aliens erasing everyone's memories in the 14th century and becomes wealthy from its success (he calls it the Black Plague to make up for a bad factual one he wrote earlier in the film). He convinces Anna to go out with him again, hoping she will see past his looks and weight now that he is financially secure, but she bluntly states that although he would be a good father and provide well for their future children she is still not attracted to him.

Mark's mother has a heart attack and he rushes to the hospital to comfort her. His mother is afraid to die, because she will go into state of nothingness. Mark makes up a comforting story about a joyful afterlife and she dies happily. The doctor and nurses who overheard him quickly spread the word and Mark soon receives worldwide attention, people in every culture wanting to hear more, believing that he is a kind of Messiah/Prophet. Under pressure to satisfy their curiosity he tells them there is a man in the sky who controls everything, and that they are allowed to do only 3 bad things in life or they won't be allowed into paradise.

Mark dictates more fictional stories for his film company, and every word is accepted as historical truth. The combination of his financial success and prophetic abilities result in being named Time Magazine's "Man of the Year." He spends more time with Anna and she appears to love him, but continues to bluntly confess that she does not want her children to have his genetic disposition. Mark teaches her to look beyond outer appearances and try to see who people are on the inside.

Mark's film rival Brad Kessler (Rob Lowe) pursues Anna romantically, motivated by spite because he was no longer considered the best filmmaker in the industry. As Anna and Brad date, Brad makes her uncomfortable with blunt remarks, and says rude things to her mother. Anna tells her mother that she prefers Mark because he makes her feel special and thinks she loves him. Her mother pressures her to continue dating Brad anyway because he is better looking.

Mark becomes depressed and lets his hair and beard grow, looking much like traditional portraits of Jesus. Anna pleads with Mark to come to her wedding. She reiterates that Brad is her ideal genetic match, and that she only has a limited amount of time before she becomes unattractive. Mark tells her that she will never look ugly to him. Mark attends the wedding and vocally objects to the marriage. Brad and Anna believe "The Man In the Sky" communicates to Mark, and want Mark to ask him what Anna should do. Mark realizes this is his chance to get Anna to marry him, but he refuses to say anything and leaves, wanting her to choose for herself. Anna walks out and pleads with him to tell her what The Man In The Sky wants. Mark confesses his ability to lie, and that there is no Man In The Sky, but Anna struggles to comprehend the concept and asks why he didn't lie to convince her to marry him. He replies, "'Cause it wouldn't count." Anna, happy to know the truth, tells Mark, "I know what I want... I want little fat kids with snub noses."

Years later, Anna and Mark are married with a son and another child on the way, and their son has inherited Mark's genetic ability to lie.[3]



The film was originally being produced under the title This Side of the Truth.[4]

The film was financed by Media Rights Capital and Radar Pictures and filmed primarily in Lowell, Massachusetts; location shoots also took place in Quincy, Andover, North Andover, Sudbury, Tewksbury and Boston, Massachusetts and Haverhill Massachusetts.[citation needed] Principal photography was completed in June 2008.[citation needed]


Warner Bros. owns the rights for the film's North American distribution, while Universal Pictures owns the rights to release the film outside of North America. The film was released in North America on October 2, 2009. Its world premiere occurred two weeks earlier at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival on September 14, 2009. The DVD and Blu-ray were released on January 19, 2010.[5]

Gervais himself briefly promoted the DVD during his hosting duty at the 2010 Golden Globe Awards in a joking manner. He later reported on his blog that the DVD sold 70,000 copies in a couple of hours the day after the Globes.



The film received mixed reviews from critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 57% of 163 critics have given the film a positive review, with a rating average of 5.8 out of 10.[6] Among Rotten Tomatoes' "Top Critics", which consists of popular and notable critics from the top newspapers, websites, television and radio programs, the film holds an overall approval rating of 50%, based on a sample of 30 reviews.[7] On Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from film critics, the film has a rating score of 58 based on 31 reviews, suggesting "mixed or average reviews".[8]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times awarded the film the three and a half stars out of four saying "in its amiable, quiet, PG-13 way, [it] is a remarkably radical comedy" while Empire gave the film 1 star out of 5 saying the "ramshackle plot detours into a hideously ill-conceived religious satire". The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops rated The Invention of Lying as "O - morally offensive".[9] However, Xan Brooks of The Guardian was more favourable, giving the film four out of five stars, although he was critical of some aspects: "It is slick and it is funny. But it is also too obviously schematic, while that romantic subplot can feel awfully synthetic at times."[10]

Box office

The film opened at #5 with $7,027,472 behind Zombieland, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs in its third weekend, the Toy Story/Toy Story 2 3-D double feature, and Surrogates in its second weekend.[11] The film has come to gross $18,451,251 in the United States, and $13,461,542 internationally, with a worldwide gross of $31,912,793.[2][12]


External links

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