The Good Liar (2019) just didn’t grab me in any meaningful way, and its slow-paced, twisting plot seemed kind of preposterous. I’d gone in hopeful that the cast could make this familiar confidence man story extra compelling…However, I found very few moments in the film to be interesting ,and many of those moments were essentially just tendrils to make the main plotline more impactful. Furthermore, I found the main plot to be the worst part of the film, and thus was left dissatisfied.
Betty McLeish (Helen Mirren) meets Roy Courtnay (Ian McKellen) through an online dating site. There is clearly some chemistry between the two of them, and Roy seems like a humble, nice man. However, it’s made clear to the audience that Roy is actually a ruthless con artist who is looking to milk Betty for every penny she’s worth.
Usually, even if I don’t love a movie, I can be surprised at the performances of the cast. However, Mirren and McKellen are always great, so there isn’t really a surprise that they give good performances here. McKellen really gets to give a large range to his performance since he is playing different roles, depending on the moment. Sometimes he’s a silly old-man with a bad foot, and at other times, he’s a ruthless crime boss or a smug rich guy with a real-estate investment. He’s great, but that still wasn’t enough to make me care about what was going on in the film.
Betty’s grandson Stephen (Russell Tovey) throws a wrench into Roy’s plans multiple times during the film. I enjoyed Tovey’s performance – but initially, I was kind of annoyed at the level of protection Stephen felt towards his grandmother. There was even a throwaway “jealous” line that just felt creepy. It’s the parts of the plot that twist late in the movie that really just felt like the end of a Stephen Soderberg film, where they reveal a bunch of things that change how you saw the events leading to that moment. These particular things feel severely unearned, and also most unlikely (and, in a few cases, even unrelated). It was clearly a moment that was supposed to drop my jaw, but instead made me grimace.
The Good Liar wasn’t truly bad, but it was just simply not worth my time. I opted to stay close to home and see it, rather than drive an hour to see Parasite (2019), which I could not regret more. My tight schedule has been limited my ability to get far for films, but I truly think I should have made the effort. The Good Liar earns the Not a Total Waste of Time rating.