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Cinema Junkie by Beth Accomando

Where the Truth Lies

Canadian filmmaker Atom Egoyan turns to a tale about the entertainment industry and celebrity as he adapts Rupert Holmes novel Where the Truth Lies (opening November 4 at Landmarks La Jolla Village Theatres). And you dont have to go six degrees to find Kevin Bacon, he stars in this film.

The cleverness of Where the Truth Lies begins with its punning title. The title not only implies where one might find truth but it also insinuates that the truth may lie, or at least that whats presented as truth may not always be what it appears on the surface. The truth were trying to get at in this case concerns Lanny Morris (Kevin Bacon) and Vince Collins (Colin Firth), a beloved pair of Hollywood entertainers who peak in the 1950s and then mysterious part company after a scandal involving a dead young woman found in their hotel room. Because both men have an alibi, neither is implicated in her death. But the incident marks the end of their partnership. Fifteen years later, in the 1970s, Karen OConnor (Alison Lohman) decides to pursue writing a book about the famous duo. She approaches each one separately, and begins to uncover bits of information about their relationship and about the mysterious young woman who turned up naked and dead in their hotel bathtub.

As a novel, Where the Truth Lies gained notoriety as a roman a clef with the main characters modeled after the real life Hollywood comedy team of Martin and Lewis, who famously and mysteriously split up in the 60s (although a dead girl was not involved). But writer-director Atom Egoyan wants to distance himself from those real figures. So hes made some changes to the book most notably changing Collins character from American to British. The change also allows Egoyan to play up cultural differences making the British Collins act as the ego to American Morriss id. Morris notes that he was pleasure, Collins was control. It was essentially a boy/girl act in which Morris was the tramp, Collins the gentleman, and Collins chaperoning presence gave American audiences permission to like the crazy Morris.


Egoyans not interested in making any connection with real characters, but he does show interest in creating a Hitchcockian thriller in which youre not quite sure who the wrong man or the wronged man is until the very end. The mystery unfolds like a puzzle box that keeps changing. Egoyan shows how these characters create public personas that are a contrast to their real selves. Again, Morris is the one who observes that being a nice guy is a tough job when youre not. The notion of seeking the truth within an entertainment industry that thrives on illusions, myths and carefully groomed surfaces appeals to Egoyan who has dealt with truth and lies before in films such as The Sweet Hereafter and Ararat. In Where the Truth Lies, Egoyan gets to play with various layers of truth. Theres the public image of Collins and Morris, and thats the image that OConnor fell in love with. As a little girl recovering from polio, she had been on one of the Collins and Morris telethons, and she grew up idolizing them. So as she pursues her story, she initially wants to vindicate them of any guilt relating to the womans death. But when she meets them she faces some truths about who they really are and then has to decide if the truths presented are real truths or just carefully designed fabrications. In addition, as OConnor gathers information for her book, her discoveries end up revealing new truths about herself as well as her subjects.

Egoyan is fascinated by how the relationship between Hollywood mythmaking and audiences has changed. In the fifties, studios still protected stars and fans from unpleasant truths. But as we head into the 70s with inquiring minds wanting to know every sordid detail of their celebrities lives, standards changed. So too has the role of the journalist. As Collins points out, many interviewers like to insert themselves into their writing. Its no longer just about the celebrities but about celebrity journalists who want attention as well.

Kevin Bacon, whos a wonderfully talented but still underappreciated actor, is great as Morris. He gives us that split persona of public versus private, and keeps the line blurred between fact and fiction. Colin Firth complements him well as Collins. But the weak link is Alison Lohmans OConnor. She seems too young and her character is too contrived, functioning as the detective who keeps connecting the dots at the appropriate moments. Shes not convincing as a journalist but there are moments when her little girl demeanor combined with her characters growing confusion do work. But all the characters suffer in the rather hasty conclusion of the film.

Where the Truth Lies (rated NC-17 for sexual content, language, drug use and brief violence) is not Atom Egoyans strongest work. His personal connection to the material does not feel as strong as it did in The Sweet Hereafter. But it is a well-crafted, often cleverly constructed work that taps into our fascination with celebrity.