Where the Truth Lies Review
Miami, 1957. Double-act Lanny Morris (Kevin Bacon) and Vince Collins (Colin Firth) are at the height of their fame, culminating in a three-day telethon for polio charities. Shortly afterwards, the naked corpse of a young woman, Maureen O’Flaherty (Rachel Blanchard) is found in the bathtub of their hotel apartment in Atlantic City. Both Lanny and Vince have alibis – they were either on television or in transit when the murder was done, although how she came to be in Atlantic City is a mystery as she had been last seen working as a maid working at the Miami hotel where the duo were staying, and had been going to interview them for her college paper. The case remains unsolved, and soon after Morris and Collins split up.
Fifteen years later, a young reporter, Karen O’Connor (Alison Lohman) is given a contract to write a book on Morris and Collins, and on the unsolved mystery of Maureen’s death. Karen has a personal connection to the duo, having had polio as a child and appearing on the 1957 telethon aged six. As she comes into contact with both Lanny and Vince, she discovers that things go far deeper than she thought. Based on a novel by Rupert Holmes, Where the Truth Lies twists and turns, a plot including Mob involvement and two characters’ heterosexuality being revealed as bisexuality.
Armenian-Canadian writer-director Atom Egoyan began his career in low-budget arthouse films, undoubtedly cerebral films displaying his preoccupations with the gulf between people and with communications technology (especially video). The results are fascinating if you share Egoyan’s somewhat rarefied concerns, but generally cold works. With Exotica Egoyan moved more towards incorporating emotion into his films, with results that are for many viewers (myself included) much more engaging. In his best works, especially with his masterpiece, The Sweet Hereafter, the more humane warmth is strengthened by the intellectual rigorousness of their construction. The use of flashbacks (with multiple narrators) and twin timelines in Where the Truth Lies are very characteristic of him, and some of his regular actors, such as Maury Chaykin, Don McKellar and Egoyan’s wife Arsinée Khanjian, make brief appearances.
Where the Truth Lies seems to be, like his earlier adaptation of William Trevor’s novel Felicia’s Journey, an attempt at more “commercial” subject matter. The results are certainly intriguing, if slow-burning, with the solution to the mystery hinging on social mores that have since changed (hence justifying the period setting), but there’s something missing at its heart. As Kevin O’Reilly suggests in his cinema review, maybe Egoyan is ultimately the wrong director for the part. Where the Truth Lies certainly isn’t the lurid trash it could have been, but somehow it seems just a little low-wattage. You can’t accuse Egoyan of not trying: Paul Sarossy’s Scope camerawork has a saturated look appropriate for the period, and Mychael Danna’s score is properly strident, both men being regular collaborators with this director. There’s also little wrong with the performances. Vince and Lanny are a classic double act in the straight man/comic mould - overtones of Martin and Lewis for sure. As is stated at one point, Vince is control and Lanny pleasure: “I was rock ’n’ roll and he was class. He gave America permission to like me.” But Vince has some demons of his own, as is demonstrated by a scene early on where he beats up a heckler who called Lanny a “kike”, and Colin Firth shows his abilities as an actor in a much darker role that should banish memories of Mr Darcy for a couple of hours or so. Meanwhile, Kevin Bacon and Alison Lohman are good as equally conflicted, shades-of-grey characters As the film was made outside the major studios, Egoyan is able to much sexually franker than Hollywood almost always is nowadays, being quite clear-eyed about the homoeroticism that underpins many close male friendships and (business) partnerships, however much they may wish to deny it. The version of the film released in the UK with an 18 certificate is the same uncut one that was given a NC-17 rating in the US, mostly due to a threesome scene which is vital to the plot.
Momentum’s DVD – encoded for Region 2 only – begins with the now very familiar anti-piracy ad, followed by trailers for Best Friends, The Weather Man and an commercial for Mars Bars. You can’t skip past or fast-forward the first and last of these, though you can the trailers.
Where the Truth Lies is transferred anamorphically in a ratio of 2.4:1. The bold colours are well rendered, though the image is a little soft. Some of this is clearly intentional, as Egoyan and Sarossy often use a soft focus (perhaps through gauze or some such) in certain sequences, and also anamorphic lenses (with which this film was shot) do have less definition and sharpness than spherical ones. However, I suspect that not all the softness is quite as it should be. It’s certainly quite acceptable, just not a top-notch transfer.
The soundtrack is Dolby Digital 5.1. It’s not the most adventurous mix there is, with the surrounds being used mostly for Danna’s score and some sound effects such as the creaking of lift cables, or a thunderstorm. Fortunately, dialogue is clear, which is just as well as Momentum regrettably have not provided any subtitles on this disc. There are twelve chapter stops.
The extras are nothing much. “The Making of Where the Truth Lies” is simply 5:24 of behind-the-scenes footage, while “Unedited B-Roll” is 12:21 of much the same, the latter concentrating on the filming of the telethon scenes. There are twelve deleted scenes (running 10:24 in total), which are presented in 2.35:1 non-anamorphic, with a timecode running in the bottom left bar. There’s no contextual information or any comment from the director, but it’s easy to see why these were cut. A featurette (10:48) follows the usual EPK pattern: interviews with Egoyan and the principal cast, with behind-the-scenes footage and extracts from the film. Finally, there’s the theatrical trailer (2:06), which tries to sell the film as more of a thriller than it actually is. The trailer is also in 2.35:1 non-anamorphic. All the other extras are 4:3.
Where the Truth Lies is certainly an interesting film and will keep many people watching for its hour and three quarters, though many will find it faintly unsatisfying. Certainly Egoyan’s many admirers will want to see this. Momentum’s DVD is up to scratch visually and audibly, though the extras are nothing special.