THE GOOD LIE
Reviewed by Gordon Justesen
Witherspoon, Arnold Oceng, Ger Duany, Emmanuel Jal, Corey Stoll
Director: Philippe Falardeau
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length 110 Minutes
Release Date: December 23, 2014
“Our names are on that list!”
If you’re at all worried that The Good Lie is another powerful message movie about the plight of the less fortunate told through the perspective of the popular actor/actress, you needn’t be. Reese Witherspoon headlines this film and she is very much all over the marketing, but she is actually not the focus of the story in the way you’d expect a movie like this with such a huge name. She and the filmmakers were extremely wise in letting the focus be more about the heartbreaking story and the journey made by the characters portrayed by virtual unknowns.
The characters in question are Sudanese refugees who are able to start a new life for themselves in America following a devastating experience that began when they were just children. The film opens with the depiction of the Sudanese Civil War, and the harsh effect it had on everyone residing in Sudanese villages. Those who managed to escape gun fire had to walk a grim distance to find a refugee camp, where they remained for over two decades.
It is then when Mamere (Arnold Oceng), Jeremiah (Ger Duany) and Paul (Emmanuel Jai) are given the opportunity to start a new life in America. They arrive in Kansas City, where they are greeted by Carrie (Witherspoon), an employment agency counselor who helps them each get jobs. Much of the movie is devoted to showcasing just how difficult it is for each of them to adjust to such a different way of living, but done in a most authentic way and not a comedic “fish out of water” approach, for once.
The film does occasionally display shades of The Blind Side, or any popular inspirational movie, by showing how much Carrie’s becomes a better person thanks to these new people in her life. However, it’s never felt overdone. And because we’ve witnessed all of the horrors of what these three, who would become known as “the lost boys of Sudan”, have gone through, their marvel and joy over all the unique discoveries they come across in America have a much more powerful and realistic effect, instead of the easy way out approach which is to turn them into caricatures.
I give Witherspoon much credit for sacrificing her status as a lead actress and allowing the film to focus on the trio of refugees, each of which is brought to amazing life by newcomers Oceng, Duany and Jai. They feel like the absolute real deal in their parts, and to go with anything but that would be a huge misstep. Nevertheless, she does deliver yet another stellar performance, as does House of Cards star Corey Stoll as Carrie’s boss who assists in helping the boys get work.
Inspirational movies tend to be a bit phony and overdone with sentiment, but The Good Lie is that rare case that ultimately leaves the viewer with true inspiration. This is a story that deserves to be told and is a film that everyone should indeed see!
This is a most superb looking Blu-ray from Warner, who closes a fantastic year with this release. In particular, the African based scenes early in the film are showcased tremendously well. But the entire presentation is loaded with immense picture detail from start to finish, never once hitting a false note!
The DTS HD mix serves this mostly dialogue driven piece quite terrifically. By depicting the harsh Sudanese civil war in the early scenes, the sound mix is able to deliver an extra bit of action to the proceedings. Dialogue delivery is handled expertly well and balanced out well with occasional music playback.
Included on this Warner Blu-ray release is a sixteen minute featurette titled “The Good Lie Journey”, which features interviews with various cast and crew members, and up to around fifteen minutes worth of Deleted Scenes.
This Combo Pack release also comes with a DVD bonus copy, as well as a Digital HD download edition.
The Good Lie serves as an illustration that the inspirational drama can still be a film of tremendous effect, and not just an enterprise of sappiness. It doesn’t sugarcoat any of the horrific details associated with what the characters survived, which plays a big role in making the film all the more stronger.