Shawn Linden’s The Good Lie is good looking and straightforward with its premise that instantly hooks you.
A normal high schooler named Cullen (played by Thomas Dekker) is devastated after being pulled out of class to find out his mother Doris (played by Julie LeBreton) has died in a car accident. He’s even more upset after learning he’s the product of a horrific rape. Furious and upset, Cullen sets out to find his mother’s rapist with revenge and justice on his mind.
The film’s good ole’ revenge plot has enough risks and raised stakes to satisfy a moviegoer’s expectations. The emotional and well-qualified lead performance by Dekker adds to the engagingness of The Good Lie.
Dekker’s Cullen is constantly put in conundrums and exchanges that challenge his integrity while twisting and tugging on his heartstrings. It’s a role where an audience will question whether the actor is over doing it with the contorted facial expressions and the furrowed brows, but we realize the actor is nailing it as he’s being put into these troublesome situations written by Linden. Dekker has a captivating screen presence and we want to see how our hero gives this villain his well-deserved comeuppance.
Sadly, while the film is interesting for the first half, Linden gets carried away with his own noir style and characters that turns The Good Lie into a snake eating its own tail – offering a lot of the same and wringing all it can out of its eager snarling actors.
Linden has Cullen searching for people who are key in his search for the evil-doer. When Cullen finds who he’s looking for, they send him off in the right direction to find someone else. While Cullen’s mystery is carrying out, Doris’ husband Richard (played competently by Matt Craven) hunts for Cullen in order to track his son’s footprints – giving Richard his own mystery.
Linden’s storytelling method is greatly affecting having his script jump around to different points in the narrative providing lots of clever and cunning reveals that will dazzle any moviegoer. His continuity among the stories that play and the stories that follow that may have taken place before those prior events is pitch perfect. I would love to see this creative writer/director tackle time travel in his developing film career.
But, as The Good Lie’s surprises and innovativeness turn into the film’s formulaic routine, it’s hard to stay impressed. More characters give Cullen attitude and after the umpteenth baddie who gives Cullen a stunned snarl after the mention of who he’s looking for, it’s hard to take their roughness seriously as they growl lines out of this Tarantino lite screenplay.
Did I mention Cullen is planning on telling his story to friends around a campfire? At the beginning of The Good Lie, we understand that Cullen and his buddies escape to the woods to tell each other urban legends and other off-putting stories.
These moments with these younger characters are obviously here to break up the tension in this taut storyline, but does it have to be so obvious? As Linden hits pause on his more interesting storyline, the audience is transported back to the campfire to watch these annoying actors (sans Dekker) play obnoxious roles and tell their tale that I’m sure will be used as a monologuing staple in each of their demo reels.
They kid around with each other, swear, and remind us that they’re all just a group of hooligans wanting to hang out with the bro’s and drink some brews. But, again, do these brash beats in Linden’s script have to be so broad?
Unfortunately for The Good Lie, a pivotal jolt in the lead’s story is anticlimactic and goes against the satisfying nature that hooked us at the beginning – finishing the film on a humdrum note. If only Shawn Linden wasn’t too busy leading audiences on for too long, maybe then he could’ve thought of a striking way to maintain that buzz he established so well during the film’s initial build-up leading to a conclusion that snaps like a campfire’s blazing licks.