The Invention of Lying

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

The Invention of Lying is a 2009 American fantasy romantic comedy film written and directed by Ricky Gervais and 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 supporting cast features Jennifer Garner, Jonah Hill, Louis C.K., Rob Lowe and Tina Fey. The film was released in the United States on October 2, 2009.


The film features a narrative set in an alternative reality in which there is no such thing as lying and everything said is the absolute truth. In this world people make blunt, often unintentionally offensive statements. Physicians are brutally honest with patients. They show no warmth and offer no hope. Not being able to lie has resulted in an absence of religion in this alternative reality. Because there is no fiction, the movie industry is limited to dry, lecture-style historical readings and product advertisements are bluntly truthful.

Mark Bellison (Ricky Gervais) is an average Joe lecture-film writer who is assigned to write about the 14th century, a "very boring" era. One night he goes out on a date with the beautiful, kind-hearted and wealthy Anna McDoogles (Jennifer Garner). She tells Mark she is not attracted to him, because of his looks and failing financial situation, but is going out with him to satisfy her extremely prejudiced mother and as a favour to Mark's best friend Greg Kleinschmidt (Louis C.K.).

The next day Mark is fired from his job because of the lack of interest in his films, and his landlord threatens to evict him for not paying his rent. Depressed, 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 is about to tell her when a strange reaction occurs in his brain, as he remembers how much money his landlord said he owed ($800). He has an epiphany that enables him to tell the world's first lie, to the effect that he has $800 in his account. The computer comes back online and shows his balance is $300. The teller gives him the full $800 noting that the computer has made a mistake.

Mark then lies in a variety of other circumstances, including, preventing a police officer (Edward Norton) from arresting his friend Greg for drunk driving, getting money from a casino, and stopping his neighbour Frank Fawcett (Jonah Hill) from committing suicide. He realises that lying can be used for better purposes than just for personal gain by doing this. He then writes a screenplay about the world being invaded by aliens in the 14th century, in which it is claimed that the memories of all humans were erased. He becomes wealthy from the success of the film which he names The Black Plague.

Mark convinces Anna to go out with him again, hoping she will see past his looks now that he is financially secure. On their date Anna congratulates Mark for his success and admits that he would be a good husband and father. She is still not attracted to him, saying that, if they ever have children, Mark would contribute half of the heredity to their children, resulting in "fat kids with snub noses". Mark then gets a call that his mother has had a heart attack and rushes to the hospital. There, the doctor (Jason Bateman) tells him that his mother 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, introducing the concept of a Heaven to her, and she dies happy while the doctors and nurses appear astonished by what he has said.

Mark soon receives worldwide attention for his supposed new information about death. Under pressure from Anna, he tells them, through "ten rules", that he talks to a "Man In The Sky" who controls everything and promises great rewards in the good place after you die, 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, would his now being rich and famous make their children more physically attractive. Mark wants to lie but does not because of his strong feelings for Anna.

Meanwhile, Mark's enemy Brad Kessler (Rob Lowe) pursues Anna romantically, motivated by Mark's success. However, Brad's arrogant, spiteful manner makes Anna uncomfortable, though she continues dating him; they become engaged. Anna invites Mark to the wedding. Mark tries to discourage her from marrying Brad, but fails. Anna goes to the park she first went to with Mark and sees a slightly overweight child with an ice cream being bullied by thinner children. She shouts at them and they run away. She approaches the boy and wipes away his tears while asking his name. He replies 'Short Fat Brian' to which she tells him: 'You are so much more than just that.'

Before the wedding Mark's friend Greg shows up and tries to convince him that he has not missed his chance with Anna. Mark reluctantly attends Anna and Brad's wedding, where he objects to the marriage, but the officiant 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 and tells her that the Man In The Sky was made up. Anna struggles to comprehend 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, the now-pregnant Anna and Mark are shown happily married with a son, who appears (by his actions) to have inherited his father's ability to lie.



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


Production of the film originally used the title This Side of the Truth.[3]

Media Rights Capital and Radar Pictures financed the film. Shooting took place primarily in Lowell, Massachusetts; location shoots also took place in Quincy, Andover, North Andover, Sudbury, Tewksbury, Boston, Massachusetts and Haverhill, Massachusetts.[4] 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 briefly promoted the DVD during his hosting duty at the 2010 Golden Globe Awards in a joking manner, referring to its modest box office results.


Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 58% of 182 critics have given the film a positive review, with a rating average of 5.9 out of 10.[6] On Metacritic, which assigns a normalised 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".[7]

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".[8] 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."[9] 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."[10]

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.[11] 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][12]


  1. ^ "The Invention of Lying: Samson Jacob". 2009-08-24. 
  2. ^ a b "Movie The Invention of Lying - Box Office Data". The-Numbers. Retrieved 2009-12-23. 
  3. ^ Gervais, Samson (March 2009). "Week sixty-three — April 2009" Check |url= value (help). Samson Jacob... Obviously. Retrieved 2009-05-08. 
  4. ^ "City to Host Hollywood Production". City of Haverhill. 
  5. ^ "The Art of Lying". IGN Entertainment. IGN Movies. 2009-12-03. Retrieved 2009-12-26. 
  6. ^ "The Invention of Lying". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2009-12-23. 
  7. ^ "The Invention of Lying (2009): Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 2009-12-23. 
  8. ^ Ebert, Roger. "The Invention of Lying". Retrieved 28 June 2011. 
  9. ^ Invention of Lying review from The Guardian
  10. ^ Manohla Dargis (October 2, 2009). "A World Where Truth Turns Out Not to Be Beauty". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-05-10. 
  11. ^ Internet Movie Database US film charts 2nd October
  12. ^ The Invention of Lying from Box Office Mojo

External links[edit]