The Good Liar Parent Guide
A talented cast that deserves better than a mediocre script.
Parent Movie Review
Roy Courtnay (Sir Ian McKellen) has spent most of his life engaged in the pursuit of money, typically by ripping off the unsuspecting and wealthy. Betty McLeish (Dame Helen Mirren) is a retired Oxford professor with no idea what she’s getting into when she meets Roy on an online dating service. Roy thinks he’s hit the motherlode with Betty; a wealthy older woman, living alone, with large reserves of cash. The only snag is Betty’s grandson Steven (Russell Tovey), an uncommonly suspicious graduate student who puts his research talents towards digging up Roy’s unsavory past. Will Steven uncover Roy’s darkest secrets, or will his many enemies catch up with him first?
The Good Liar is another warning for me that being excited about movies is a nearly surefire way to make them bad. Or, at least in this case, tragically unfulfilling. With a cast that has more royal decorations than most palaces you may wonder how this production could fail so miserably. I had the same thought and puzzled out some answers.
The primary issue is that the story isn’t well written. I predicted most of the film’s plot twists from the trailer, which is fine in animated children’s movies, and a lot less fine in suspenseful crime thrillers. The dialogue is usually okay, but seldom moves beyond mediocrity. The plus side is that Ian McKellen and Helen Mirren are clearly having a good time playing cat and mouse with each other. McKellen manages to be both charming and slimy, although that charm evaporates as the film progresses and his lies are revealed one by one. Mirren is a delight as always, shining especially in the last twenty minutes.
The content concerns are a more severe than I had anticipated. I expected the profanity to be the sole justification for an “R” from the MPAA, but the violence is graphic enough to push it in that direction even without the swearing. There is also a rape scene involving teenagers, which despite being non-explicit, is extremely unpleasant to watch. This obviously isn’t a suitable film for family viewing, or even for older teens.
So that leaves me here, lamenting another fond hope killed by poor screenwriting, and wondering how well the film will do on its cast alone. If you really enjoy good acting and think you can stomach the violent content, it could be worth watching. At least the relatively short runtime makes the marginal screenwriting more palatable. If you can’t be good, be brief.Directed by Bill Condon. Starring Ian McKellen, Helen Mirren, and Russell Tovey.. Running time: 110 minutes. Theatrical release November 15, 2019. Updated February 6, 2020
Watch the trailer for The Good Liar
The Good Liar
Rating & Content Info
Why is The Good Liar rated R? The Good Liar is rated R by the MPAA for some strong violence, and for language and brief nudity.
Violence: Several people are shot in a movie theater. An individual’s hand is crushed repeatedly with a meat tenderizer as a punishment. A man is stabbed in the eye and shoved in front of a train. A person is shot in the head, blowing their face off. A person is non-fatally cut across the neck and shot in the arm. An individual accidentally puts their hand on some upturned nails, causing a minor injury. An individual has their face cut and their finger broken, and is then beaten nearly to death.
Sexual Content: A number of women are briefly shown topless in a strip club. There are references to prostitution. There is a non-graphic depiction of a teenager raping another teenager.
Profanity: There are 14 uses of extreme profanity, and perhaps half a dozen uses of profanity in other categories.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Adult characters are shown smoking cigarettes and drinking, although not to the point of intoxication.
Page last updated February 6, 2020
The Good Liar Parents' Guide
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