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A Little White Lie Review: Allowing Others to Believe What They Want

There is little about the whopper at the heart of “Little White Lie,” a comedy-drama about fame and imposter syndrome. The film’s central idea — pretending to be a famous author and having a janitor accept an invitation to visit a liberal arts college — is full of potential. But writer-director Michael Marin (whose 2014 debut “A Short History of Decay” features the protagonist) sticks to the obvious, ignoring potential themes of blind celebrity worship and an inattentive academia that would have added some ironic edge to this genius but dull film.

Based on Chris Belden’s 2013 novel Shriver, Little White Lie centers on a handyman (Michael Shannon) who lives a lonely life in a rundown apartment building who receives an invitation from a university to be the guest star at their annual performance. festival.

Simon (Kate Hudson), the organizer trying to protect the faltering event from budget cuts, thinks she’s getting legendary author Shriver, who wrote a blockbuster novel 20 years ago and hasn’t been seen since. Shriver, a J.D. Salinger-type savage who went off the grid after the book was published and was never filmed, would be a coup for the college and save the festival.

On a whim, Shriver accepts the invitation despite his conscientiousness and inability to function in the modern world (he has no credit cards, carries his cash in a bag of quarters and doesn’t even have a photo ID). Simone is excited to greet him, though the man’s laconic manner and Forrest Gumpian’s naivety don’t match her expectations.

Shannon is the kind of condescending and savvy actor who makes you believe in any character he plays, whether it’s General Zod exchanging punches with Superman in “Man of Steel” or, in this case, a surface-level no-nonsense guy. Shriver allows himself to be used by journalists seeking an exclusive interview; stumbles disastrously into presentations by other authors on the show for no apparent reason; And he’s unperturbed when a police detective (Jimmy Simpson) accuses him of playing a part in the disappearance of another visiting writer (Anna Naomi King).

For half of the movie, Shriver seems oblivious to the spiraling chaos he has inadvertently created, until his conscience (also played by Shannon) begins to appear in human form, à la Jiminy Cricket, telling him what he should and shouldn’t do. This is a lazy, obvious trick of letting us inside Shriver’s head – telling us that he’s not the complete emptiness he appears to be. Director Marine Shannon isn’t confident in conveying this inner monologue through his performance – just one example of the film’s lack of wit or sophistication.

Don Johnson gives his “little white lie” a shock whenever he’s on screen as a college hustler who inexplicably believes in Shaver, even as evidence of the fraud continues to mount. But his personality doesn’t matter until the real Shriver (Zach Braff) shows up on campus, photo ID and documents in tow, exposing the janitor’s scam. Hudson doesn’t get much to do other than roll her eyes at Shriver’s lack of sophistication, at least until the film makes time for an implausible romantic interlude that should be studied in film schools as screenwriting mistakes to avoid.

Shot in a flat style by cinematographer Edd Lukas reminiscent of pre-broadcast TV movies made for the network, “A Little White Lie” unveils a twist in the last 30 minutes that captures the slow pace, though the reveal makes no sense if you spend two seconds in thinking about it. However, in a movie this dull, the inconsequential ramble is preferable to the flavorless sludge that preceded it.


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