- Colin Fraser
THE GOOD LIAR
THREE STARS Roy is an elderly conman who has suburban Betty in his sights. Yet she's not being entirely honest with Roy.
Helen Mirren, Ian McKellen
This delightful game of cat-and-mouse takes its cue from the title, and it’s no surprise to learn that both protagonists are playing the game. Just who is playing who, and how much, much less working out who’s winning is the fun of the film. Directed with flair by Bill Condon (DREAMGIRLS) and starring Helen Mirren and Ian McKellen in fine form, THE GOOD LIAR is a flashy story of an elaborate con-job.
Aged pensioners Betty and Roy meet through a dating app ‘on the computer service’ and from the get-go it’s clear they’ll get along just fine, even if they’re not being entirely honest with one another. Online they don’t smoke or drink, although when they first meet Betty’s necking a martini and Roy’s just finished a cigarette. The game, it seems, has already begun. As we learn that Roy has a whole other agenda hidden away, and moving in with his unsuspecting mark is part of an elaborate fraud, it raises questions about Betty herself. Is her only deception an undeclared fondness for red wine? And what of her over-protective grandson (Russell Tovey)?
To say more would be to spoil the game. Suffice to say, a lot of cards are played before this particular hand folds. Although the deal becomes unnecessarily over-complicated, keen eyes should be able to follow the cards to a satisfying conclusion and a well-earned gotcha moment. Granted it’s somewhat preposterous in a very stylish manner (more so once the flashbacks begin), but watching Mirren and McKellen having a ball more than makes up for any misgivings.
Based on a best-selling novel by Nicholas Searle, writer Jeffrey Hatcher (he, Condon and McKellen gave us 2015’s superior MR HOLMES) serves up a respectable pot-boiler that under Condon’s stylish direction pops and fizzes as Roy and Betty thrust and parry their way to an energetic, enjoyable conclusion.