Page to Screen: Where the Truth Lies (2005)

Where the Truth Lies
based on
Where the Truth Lies by Rupert Holmes

So there I am, watching This Film is Not Yet Rated with my friend Elizabeth, and a scene from Where the Truth Lies pops up. It’s from very late in the film, being a spoiler of sorts, and I’m intrigued. Had this been back in middle school, wee Clare would already be frantic to watch the movie, never mind whether or not what she saw was central to the plot. (Oh, wee Clare. At least you were confident in your head.) I began looking for Where the Truth Lies, and couldn’t find it in my usual places. But I found it when I hit up Videodrome, which I heartily recommend to any Atlantans who might be reading.

Where the Truth Lies is the story of Karen O’Connor, a young but talented journalist in the 1970s. When she’s hired to ghostwrite Vince Collins’ autobiography (one half of the legendary and now defunct 1950s comedy duo Morris and Collins), she becomes consumed by the mission to find out what happened the night that ruined their careers: the night a dead girl was found in their hotel room before a marathon polio telethon. While Morris and Collins were never implicated, O’Connor suspects something deeper—but is she prepared for what she might find out?

I haven’t read the novel Where The Truth Lies by Rupert Holmes. (Incidentally, Holmes is also the gentleman who wrote the Pina Colada song! What a Renaissance man, ladies and gentlemen.) In fact, I didn’t know it existed until the title card came up, which happens an embarrassing amount of the time. But I could just feel that this was a bad film adaptation. For instance, the Harry Potter films, especially the later ones, are not that good as films, because they expect you to know the books. I’m reminded of a particular scene in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 where a dozen or so characters walk into a room and nobody is introduced. That’s a bit lazy; this is… I don’t quite know what this is. There’s more of a story here, you can tell; relationships lack establishment, plot elements that are clearly important in the novel are given time here without much set-up (especially the ending scene), and it feels all over the place. In adaptation, you can either be slavish or pragmatic, and it feels like Egoyan, who wrote the screenplay, is trying for both and failing. Giving O’Connor a voice over further confuses the various timelines and accounts we’re dealing with; when it comes to the balancing act, The Social Network it most certainly isn’t.

Kevin Bacon and Colin Firth as Morris and Collins are both interesting choices; Bacon can do both charmingly boyish and snakishly threatening, and Firth is subdued but wry as Collins. But Alison Lohman, as O’Connor, doesn’t quite mesh. I’m hesitant to blame the actress, as she has a sort of Katherine McPhee via Rachel McAdams charm to her, so I’m more willing to blame the direction. But perhaps part of that is the clash between the production’s take on the early seventies and the general tone of the film. The film is trying to be a noir murder mystery—the score, in particular, strains like a femme fatale in a too-tight dress—but half the film takes place in a loose, lush, and sunny California that seems to undercut that. Placing a noirish mystery in early seventies California can definitely be done, but it just doesn’t here.

But, again, perhaps most of that is the poor quality of the adaptation itself. Where the Truth Lies commits the cardinal sin of stories—it’s boring. I, a woman who rarely naps because it disorients me so much, was nodding off during the film. Since the movie feels like it’s wandering in and out of the plot of the novel, you never really get invested in the characters or the story, which is a shame, since the actual mystery is kind of interesting and there’s intriguing emotional pay-off for Morris and Collins. Instead of enjoying the movie, I just really got a hankering for the novel itself, which, I hope, will be better than the film it inspired.

Bottom line: Even without reading the novel it’s based on, you can tell Where the Truth Lies is a pretty bad adaptation; it feels more like a video wandering in and out of the novel, rather than a film proper. And that sucks, because the story has such potential. Avoid.

I rented this movie from a video rental store.

4 thoughts on “Page to Screen: Where the Truth Lies (2005)

  1. I really like your page to screen feature — right up my alley, 🙂 Even though this movie has actors I like, especially Colin Firth, I’ll probably give it a miss. I may check out the novel sometime.

  2. Pingback: Review: Where The Truth Lies | The Literary Omnivore

  3. Pingback: Booking Through Thursday: Ratings | The Literary Omnivore

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