Many of you out there will instantly relate to 'The Lie.' It's a film about reaching your thirties, getting married and having children, but then realizing that the responsibilities of being married and having children have altered the goals you originally set up for yourself. Perhaps you've changed, and your partner has changed, and now it's about finding the right diapers -- or the right benefits package, or the right stroller -- instead of finding the right you.
Co-written, directed by and starring Joshua Leonard, 'The Lie' features Leonard and Jess Weixler as Lonnie and Clover, a couple of recovering hippies who've grown up, gotten married, had a kid, and have begun to adapt to life after children. Lonnie has put his musical aspirations on hold in order to work a job he hates so that his family can stay afloat. Meanwhile, his wife Clover is about to graduate from school and has been offered a comfy job at a large drug company that instantly conflicts with the couple's pure, all-organic lifestyle, but, heck, there's great benefits and life insurance ... and, well, they kinda need that stuff now.
Problem is, Lonnie's slowly having a breakdown -- a third-life crisis -- and after ditching work a couple days in a row, Lonnie melts down and spits out an awful lie to his boss to explain his absence, which ultimately changes his and his family's life forever.
Based on a short story originally found in The New Yorker, 'The Lie' deviates slightly from that tale in order to tell a more well-rounded and fulfilling story, though some have criticized the film for feeling a little too light on substance with its brisk 80-minute running time. While 'The Lie' may run short, it certainly doesn't lack substance. This is a film that deconstructs a moment -- and the emotions from within that moment -- by slightly expanding upon it, focusing on it, and then confronting it head on. Every scene takes place for a reason, and, like a lot of the choices we make in our own lives, we're left not with an ending, but with a continuation.
Making his directorial debut, Leonard does an outstanding job of wearing multiple hats on the film (including key grip truck driver, which he admitted to during our interview). Here's a guy who's been doing the festival thing for over a decade (he originally started way back as an actor in 'The Blair Witch Project'), but in the past several years he's grown up and come into his own as one of indie film's most trusted voices. He has a remarkable ability to mix comedy and drama without making it feel artificial or cheesy, and with 'The Lie' Leonard manages to extract a career-defining performance from Jess Weixler, who's been steadily making the indie film rounds for a few years now, and shows a level of maturity here that we haven't seen from her before. Mark Webber, as Lonnie and Clover's best friend, adds a few nice touches of humor and wisdom throughout, but the film truly belongs to Leonard and Weixler.
There's a studio version of 'The Lie,' and it probably stars some hokey comedian as a guy who keeps finding himself telling lie after lie to cover up one big initial lie, while hijinks and annoying, beer-guzzling best friends crash every other scene in order to draw our attention away from the fact that these are Hollywood caricatures and not real people.
Thankfully, Leonard's version is nothing like that. It's a small film full of sincere moments between two people who aren't sure if this whole "life thing" is gonna work out. Easily digestible and completely satisfying, this is one of the best film's at this year's Sundance festival -- an under-the-radar gem that may hit you in ways you never expected long after the credits roll.
And that's no lie.