The Invention of Lying

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The Invention of Lying
Invention of lying ver2.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by
Written by
  • Ricky Gervais
  • Matthew Robinson
Produced by
CinematographyTim Suhrstedt
Edited byChris Gill
Music byTim Atack
Distributed by
Release dates
  • September 14, 2009 (2009-09-14) (TIFF)
  • October 2, 2009 (2009-10-02) (United States)
Running time
100 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$18.5 million[1]
Box office$32.7 million[2]

The Invention of Lying is a 2009 American romantic comedy film written and directed by comedian Ricky Gervais and writer Matthew Robinson in their directorial debuts. The film stars Gervais as the first human with the ability to lie in a world where people can only tell the truth. The cast also includes Jennifer Garner, Jonah Hill, Louis C.K., Jeffrey Tambor, Fionnula Flanagan, Rob Lowe, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Tina Fey.

The film premiered at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival on September 14, 2009 and was released in the United States on October 2, 2009 by Warner Bros. Pictures and Focus Features. It grossed $32.7 million against a $18.5 million budget.


The film is set in an alternative reality in which lying does not exist and people are straightforward about what they think and feel.

Mark Bellison is a screenwriter, in a film industry limited to historical readings because there is no fiction. One night he has a date with the beautiful and wealthy Anna McDoogles. She tells Mark she is not attracted to him, because of his looks and failing financial situation, but is going out with him as a favor to his best friend, Greg Kleinschmidt.

The next day, Mark is fired from his job because of the lack of interest in his films (which are set in the lackluster 14th century), and his landlord threatens to evict him for not paying his rent. Crestfallen, he goes to the bank to close his account. The teller informs him that the computers are down and asks him how much money he has in his account. Mark then has an epiphany that enables him to tell the world's first lie, which is that he has $800—the amount he owed his landlord—in his account. He then lies in a variety of other circumstances, initially for personal gain; he prevents a police officer from arresting Greg for drunk driving, convinces a stranger to have casual sex with him to prevent the end of the world (but fakes a call from NASA confirming the world has been saved after deciding that this was exploitative), breaks the bank at a casino, and writes a screenplay about the world being invaded by aliens in the 14th century that ends with the claim that everyone's memories were erased. He becomes wealthy from the film's success. Mark soon realises that lying can also be used to help others, such as stopping his depressive neighbour Frank Fawcett from committing suicide. Soon after, Mark convinces Anna to go out with him again. She congratulates Mark for his financial success and admits that he would be a good husband and father, but she is still not attracted to him due to how his genetics and appearance would not be a good factor in what she wants her child to be and look like.

Mark then gets a call that his mother, Martha, has had a heart attack and rushes to the hospital. There, the doctor tells him that Martha is going to die. She is scared of death, believing that it will bring an eternity of nothingness. Mark, through tears, tells her that death instead brings a joyful afterlife and she dies happy. Mark soon receives worldwide attention as the news of his supposed information about death spreads. After encouragement from Anna, he tells the world, through ten main points, that he talks to a "Man In The Sky" who controls everything and promises great rewards in the good place after death, as long as you do no more than three "bad things".

Some time later, Anna and Mark are together in a park and Anna asks him, if they marry, if his now being rich and famous would make their children more physically attractive. Mark wants to lie, but does not because of his love for Anna, and says "No". Meanwhile, Mark's rival, Brad Kessler, pursues Anna romantically, motivated by his jealousy at Mark's success. Though Brad's selfish and cruel manner makes Anna uncomfortable, she continues dating him and they become engaged. Before the wedding, Greg appears and convinces Mark that he has not missed his chance with Anna. Mark reluctantly attends Anna and Brad's wedding, where he objects to the marriage. The officiant, however, informs him that only the Man in the Sky can stop the wedding. Brad and Anna both ask Mark to ask the Man in the Sky what Anna should do, but Mark refuses to say anything and leaves, wanting Anna to choose for herself. Anna walks out and Mark confesses his ability to lie. Anna struggles to understand the concept and asks why he did not lie to convince her to marry him; Mark states that it "wouldn't count". Anna confesses that she loves him.

Some time later, Anna and Mark are shown happily married with a son (and another child on the way), who appears by his actions to have inherited his father's ability to lie.




Matthew Robinson's script which was titled This Side of Truth at the time, was included in 2007 official Black List of the “most liked” un-produced scripts in Hollywood.[3] Robinson and producer Lynda Obst sent Ricky Gervais the script out of the blue in the hopes that it would spark his interest. Gervais loved it and eventually flew Robinson to London to retool the script and make the movie. Robinson’s original idea for a feature film grew from a skit he wrote about two people on a date who do not have the ability to lie. He later expanded on the idea for more skits with the same premise and then adapted them into a full film script.[4]

Media Rights Capital and Radar Pictures financed the film.[5] However, 1821 Pictures sued Radar Pictures for breach of contract over failure to pay a $450,000 production fee.[6] Shooting took place primarily in Lowell, Massachusetts; location shoots also took place in Quincy, Andover, North Andover, Sudbury, Tewksbury, Boston, Massachusetts,[citation needed] and Haverhill, Massachusetts.[7] Principal photography was completed in June 2008.[citation needed] During production the film was originally titled This Side of the Truth, same as the script.[8]


The soundtrack includes Elvis Costello's otherwise-unreleased rendition of the Cat Stevens song "Sitting".

Songs also include: Eddie and the Hot Rods' "Do Anything You Wanna Do", Donovan's "Catch the Wind", Supertramp's "Give a Little Bit", and Electric Light Orchestra's "Mr. Blue Sky".


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.[9] Gervais briefly promoted the DVD during his hosting duty at the 67th Golden Globe Awards in a joking manner, referring to its modest box office results.


Critical reception[edit]

Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 56% of 188 critics have given the film a positive review, with an average rating of 5.9/10. The site's consensus says, "It doesn't quite follow through on its promise, and relies too heavily on shopworn romantic comedy tropes, but The Invention of Lying is uncommonly sly and funny."[10] On Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average 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".[11]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times awarded the film three and a half stars out of four saying "in its amiable, quiet, PG-13 way, [it] is a remarkably radical comedy".[12] Xan Brooks of The Guardian was also 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."[13] Manohla Dargis of The New York Times called it a "mostly funny if melancholic defense of deceit" that "looks so shoddy that you yearn for the camerawork, lighting and polish of his shows, like the original The Office, because, really, these days TV rarely looks this bad." In some scenes, Dargis says "lying becomes a means to transcendence, an escape from the quotidian, from our oppressive literal-mindedness, from our brute selves. For the most part, though, Mr. Gervais prefers to shock us with our own brutality...[with] unvarnished truths [that] begin to feel heavy, cruel."[14]

Box office[edit]

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.[15] The film has grossed $18,451,251 in the United States, and $13,955,256 internationally, with a worldwide gross of $32,406,507.[2][16]


  1. ^ "The Invention of Lying: Ricky Gervais". 2009-08-24.
  2. ^ a b "Movie The Invention of Lying - Box Office Data". The-Numbers. Retrieved 2009-12-23.
  3. ^ "2007 Black List" (PDF). The Black List, LLC. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2018-01-07. Retrieved 2018-01-07. 10th rank with 10 mentions
  5. ^ Chang, Justin (2009-10-01). "The Invention of Lying". Retrieved 2018-01-07.
  6. ^ Randles, Jonathan (2012-06-28). "Film Co. Can't Nix 'Invention Of Lying' Contract Suit". Law 360. Retrieved 2018-01-07.
  7. ^ "Hollywood in Haverhill; Denzel to film in empty Lowe's building". Eagle-Tribune. 2013-05-23. Retrieved 2018-01-07.
  8. ^ Gervais, Ricky. "Week sixty-three — April 2009". Ricky Gervais... Obviously. Archived from the original on 2012-03-21. Retrieved 2009-05-08.
  9. ^ "The Art of Lying". IGN Entertainment. IGN Movies. 2009-12-03. Retrieved 2009-12-26.
  10. ^ "The Invention of Lying". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2009-12-23.
  11. ^ "The Invention of Lying (2009): Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 2009-12-23.
  12. ^ Ebert, Roger. "The Invention of Lying". Retrieved 30 May 2021.
  13. ^ Invention of Lying review from The Guardian
  14. ^ Manohla Dargis (October 2, 2009). "A World Where Truth Turns Out Not to Be Beauty". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-05-10.
  15. ^ Internet Movie Database US film charts 2nd October
  16. ^ The Invention of Lying from Box Office Mojo

External links[edit]