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The Good Liar (2019) Movie Review

Hey you. I wrote this Review Just for You because I like you.I also like pizza.

Say "Mirren/McKellen" 3 times fast. Wait. It's not that hard.

Say "Mirren/McKellen" 3 times fast. Wait. It's not that hard.

MPAA Rating

R

Running Time

109 minutes

Director

Bill Condon

Writer

Jeffrey Hatcher

You’ve got Charlie’s Angels for the kids.

You’ve got Ford V Ferrari for the parents.

For the parents of the parents The Good Liar is opening just for you.

No. I’m saying that the target audience for The Good Liar will probably see this in the afternoon and have dinner around 4:30. It’s not targeted to those people specifically, but the edges are rounded enough to not upset those who might have, you know, heart conditions.

Of the three major releases opening this week, I’m not lying when I write that The Good Liar is by far the most okayest. It’s the 3rd best, 4th if you feel like adding to Joker’s 1 billion dollar take any more than you already have.

At its best, The Good Liar is the best BBC America/BritBox movie ever to be released in theaters. At its worst, you realize that Ian McKellen and Oscar Winner Helen Mirren are slumming (yes, even more than Mirren slums in those Fast and Furi-Hobbs movies) and there’s nothing wrong with that. Take a bite out of your—

Give me a moment while I Google something British people eat..

Take a bite out of your beans on toast for breakfast, lunch and dinner or chip butty and enjoy The Good Liar for what it is and not what you expect it to be given the bona fides in front and behind the camera.

Don’t get me started with the haggis, neeps and tatties.

Reading that previous sentence again makes it look like fetish porn.

Don’t Get Shirty With This Synopsis

The Good Liar opens in London circa 2009. Why 2009? I have no idea.

Hogwarts is buzzing with trepidation. Our young Harry Potter (Daniel Day-Radcliffe) has defeated Lord Voldemort for now, but many fear he will return. Ron Weaselly is still useless.

Over the opening credits we see our nameless (as of yet) protagonists chatting online using a dating service. They agree to meet at a restaurant. Fancy, but not too fancy.

Later, we see a woman named Estelle (Helen Mirren) sitting at a table alone. She’s waiting for someone.

An elderly gentleman (Ian McKellen) walks in and sees her. He introduces himself as Brian.

It’s a standard meet-cute at a restaurant. It looks like things are going well.

After some basic pleasantries, Brian admits his name isn’t Brian. He says his name is Roy.

Estelle says her name isn’t Estelle. She admits her name is also Roy. I’m lying. Estelle says her name is Betty.

Somebody mistook her for Judi Dench.

Somebody mistook her for Judi Dench.

Within 20 minutes of meeting each other these two people have both told lies. This will end well. Despite both Roy and Betty (if those are their real names) being liars worthy of a Fox news correspondent, they seem to be hitting it off.

They have another dinner. And then another.

They go the movies this time and watch Inglourious Basterds. A perfect date movie.

While walking home from seeing Nazis get burned, Roy reveals he has a dodgy knee. Betty helps Roy to her house, where they get to know each other better.

Roy has a son he doesn’t see and has been widowed for three years.

Betty lost her husband over a year ago. He’s not dead or anything, he just got lost on his way to the pub. Probably fell in a TARDIS or something British like that.

Roy meets Betty’s super attentive grandson Stephen (Russell Tovey). Stephen is immediately suspicious of Roy. That in itself isn’t odd, but it comes across in way that you really don’t want to see a grandson act toward his grandmother.

Roy’s knee has recovered enough that he can go home. Betty tells Stephen to take Roy home. Betty tags along as well.

M and M.

M and M.

When Betty sees how many flights of stairs Roy must climb to get to his flat, she has a mag-neato idea. She has a spare room in her house she’s not using. Perhaps Roy would like to stay there while his knee gets stronger.

Roy reluctantly agrees.

Stephen gives him the side-eye because no man needs to make any moves on his grandmother. He’s right to be wary, because when Roy isn’t at the house his dealings are not legal nor aboveboard.

Roy and his partner in crime Vincent (Jim Carter) run criminal schemes involving investor fraud and watching Disney Plus for hours. They’re good at reeling in small fish for minor scores, but Betty may be the whale they’ve been hoping for. They’ve seen her house and know she pays cash for everything. Roy has never been shy from using violence to get what he needs, but this time finesse may be the best tact.

It isn’t long before Roy oh-so-subtly suggests they open a joint investment account, combining their estates. You know, to lessen the tax implications for both of them.

Betty sure is fond of Roy. So what’s a recently widowed woman with a fortune to do?

You shall not point!

You shall not point!

What Bloody Works With The Good Liar

  • Ostensibly labeled a thriller, but after the credits roll you realize in retrospect the only real thrills are seeing two great actors working together. McKellen and Mirren are marvelous onscreen and their genuine chemistry (this is their first movie together though they did a play in 2001 and were both a part of the British rap group Wonky Niggaz) propel you through the draggier parts of Liar.

What’s Balls-Up (Doesn’t Work) With The Good Liar

  • A series of twists that everyone will see coming unless they’ve never seen these kinds of con movies before. Director Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters, the live-action Beauty and the Beast) stages every blind and reveal as if the audience will be all collywobbles but doesn’t seem to realize that any audience that’s seen House of Games or The Sting will not be taken in by this Mamet-lite affair.
She's holding this part of the house up using her arms and shoulders.

She's holding this part of the house up using her arms and shoulders.

Overall

You shall not pass…up the chance to see Ian McKellen and Helen Mirren onscreen together. Just don’t expect much from the movie itself. I’d be lying if I didn’t say you’d come out of The Good Liar a touch disappointed. Absobloodylutely.

3 Stars for Helen Mirren and Ian McKellen

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