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  • Bruce Klein

The Good Liar: Review


Betsy McLeish (Helen Mirren) and Roy Courtnay (Ian McKellen) go on an internet date. They eat at a refined restaurant after which Betsy’s grandson takes her home. After the date, Roy travels to a back room at a strip club where he and his associates toast to a new proposition. The date is now reveal to be the set up for a swindle. The deal falls through the first time but works the second time around. It is no surprise to move from a toney restaurant to a high class strip club in London, but Roy’s behavior appears aberrant.


These two actors, Mirren and McKellen, are so talented that they become Betsy and Roy. The meticulous director, Bill Condon guides this movie like a new cruise ship. There is tension in the story because we come to know that Roy is a scoundrel. Although the couple continues on together, there are signs of a deceit. Betsy’s grandson is suspicious of Roy. Betsy has a stroke and is warned by her doctor to take it easy. But instead she makes plans with Roy to go overseas. She appears hopelessly in love and willing to risk her health.


Roy becomes a darker character when he meets up with one of his past swindle victims. And, well, it doesn't end well for them. Not when you add a character like Roy with a set of subway tracks. This act makes him seem very treacherous indeed. But somehow when he is with Betsy, the settings and surroundings give off an atmosphere of safety. The story creates a sense that a serene life lies underneath the disturbances, and this serenity will prevail in the end.


At this point, I realized the script was magnificent and the direction was almost faultless. The movie is so well organized it appears like woven cloth. There are no pieces left wanting and the pace is like a heartbeat; a beat that comes from within the action of the characters and not from the score. It’s hard to find any scrapes of cloth left on the floor. Even the character actors were ideal and had no faults, especially Jim Carter who plays Vincent.


There is no shooting in the movie but the violence is socking and runs deep. The dialogue is strait forward but without crude language. These two elements reinforced the feeling that these events were not out of the ordinary with few exceptions and lull the audience into assent. All the scenes and the three acts fit like a glove when examining the movie in retrospect. Don’t let a friend tell you about the movie because the third act resounds. The plot is troubling and will leave you numb. But once you recover, you can look back at a near perfect achievement. If there is another movie with Mirren and McKellen that you haven’t seen do so immediately. Also check out Bill Condon’s newer movies and see his classic Gods and Monsters. The man obviously knows what he's doing.