The truth? Ricky Gervais’ jolting philosophical comedy The Invention of Lying is seriously subversive. What other rom-com would spend so much time making a convincing case that ? belief in an afterlife is a harmless load of bollocks? Much less one starring a radiant Jennifer Garner as a pretty lady looking to marry a pretty man and make pretty children (which theoretically leaves a disappointed Gervais out of the running as a beau)? In a hilariously literal-?minded society where people can’t help but speak the truth, Gervais is the one guy who realizes that lies can be useful. Wait, it’s deeper than that: Without lying — or ”making things up,” if you’d prefer a more uplifting spin — our hero demonstrates that there’d be a lot of hurt, hopeless people on earth, and no good screenplays.
Perhaps only Gervais — the inconvenient-truth teller from the BBC’s The Office and Extras, the dry voice of reason on awards shows — could argue the pros and cons of ? lying so well, attracting a hip cast that includes Rob Lowe, Louis C.K., and Tina Fey ? to back him up. Honesty compels me to say that the tech aspects are often muddy. (Gervais makes a behind-the-camera debut, codirecting and co-writing with newcomer Matthew Robinson.) But the performances are razor sharp. And the ideas in this movie are, no kidding, big. B+