The Good Liar

After all the hype I was disappointed by The Good Liar. Notwithstanding, Hellen Mirren and Ian McKellen are a couple of pitch-perfect pros who lead us their respective merry dances through the story-line with grace, gusto and laughs.

Betty McLeish (Mirren) is a middle-class wealthy widow who is looking for companionship to combat her loneliness. She meets Roy Courtnay (McKellan) online, after both falsifying their credentials in a rather amusing opening scene. He is roguish and charming and she elegant and refined (she looks a picture throughout), and soon he has moved into her suburban bungalow with its boring furniture, albeit platonically, to keep her company. Her grandson Steven (Russell Tovey), a sometime lodger while he studies for his Masters, is aghast and smells a huge rat.

Of course he is up to no good. In parallel scenes with the fabulous Lucian Msamati – now appearing in  His Dark Materials, more recently as a sinister Salieri in Amadeus  and the lead in Master Harold and the Boys ­ – and Jim Carter as a crooked accountant, Vincent, we see how he is a common conman and that Betty is his new mark. With Vincent’s help he sets about a cunning plan to steal her millions.

Under Bill Condon’s experienced direction (he has worked with McKellan four times previously) the plot moves along nicely in the thriller/mystery genre as we sense that perhaps Ray might have bitten off more than he can chew. Seriously only a fool, which Betty clearly is not, could be taken in by the absurd online banking gizmo. As we see his other marks are such fools…

But it is the twists and turns that the plot takes which I find clunky and, while a good piece of dramatic fiction, I can’t quite get my head around it or, indeed, forgive it. It’s just plain irritating. Perhaps it’s partly due to the novel on which it is based, the first work by writer Nicholas Searle, who co-wrote the script.

Don’t get me wrong: this is perfectly decent night out, where you can enjoy some tip-top performances and a bit of frothy fun (the ‘thriller’ bit was not particularly threatening). So if you’re at a loose end you could do worse – but you could also do better with some of the five-star films I’ve been reviewing recently like The Irishman and Sorry We Missed You.

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