A Little White Lie

A solid movie for people who read or don’t read books.

The premise of “A Little White Lie” regards a college whose literary festival will be canceled, unless they can bring a famous writer back into reality after disappearing for 20 years. His name is C.R. Shriver and he receives an invitation to speak there. But he’s the wrong guy. He’s a loser New York handyman played by Michael Shannon, and despite the fact that’s not he’s neither a writer nor a book worm, he agrees to attend. The introduction here sounds like the beginning of “Manchester by the Sea” with Casey Affleck living miserably as a handyman and continues with a near similar plot to “Colour Me Kubrick” with John Malkovich as Alan Conway posing as Stanley Kubrick.

This is labeled as a comedy, especially when the film has to have an awkward vibe, so it didn’t make me laugh. But I am recommending “A Little White Lies” for its poetic aspect and some likable performances from the cast.

“Goat Man” is the real Shriver’s most famous book, but the fake Shriver asks: “What kind of title it is?.” Like I said: he’s never even read a book in his life. He doesn’t even have a credit card. That’s how low this guy has sunken. And in his deception, he has to act like he doesn’t know what he’s getting himself into. He always has to hesitate before responding to young, aspiring writers.

For example: this phony Shriver begins to regret it up to the point of refusing to a sign a “Goat Man” book for an ambitious writer (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) on a plane, and then wanting to get a ride back home.

But why does he still remain in this game? He becomes attracted to Simone Clearly (Kate Hudson), the professor who invited him, and is also a writer.

This young professor has some colorful supporting characters like Don Johnson as a horse riding moderator, M. Emmett Wash as an old timer who thinks J.D. Salinger is still alive, and Romy Byrne as a graduate TA assigned to be Shriver’s assistant. But the most outspoken has to be Aja Naomi King as author Blythe Brown, who thinks “Goat Man” is sexist and criticizes the fake Shriver for asking her if she thought about “writing from a male perspective.”

Writer/director Michael Maren (a journalist whose first movie was “A Short History of Decay”) can’t find the material to make us laugh, but he can use literature to track the attention of the human mind. After all, he was foreign correspondent for such newspapers as The Village Voice and The New York Times. My heading states: “A solid movie for people who read or don’t read books.” I’m not much of a book worm, but I loved “Of Mice and Men,” and I have a saying I came up with after reading “Oedipus the King.” And that is-instead of “Can’t you read?,” I say: “Pinned out your eyes, Oedipus?”

Seeing Michael Shannon as this loser struggling to adapt to his new surroundings is actually quite entertaining, even if I can assume he hasn’t seen movies of this specific genre. The genre when people have to pretend to be somebody they aren’t. Does he expect the real C.R. Shriver (Zach Braff) to show up? No, he doesn’t. Or is he a phony, too?

Is “it “A Little White Lie” a great movie about literature? No, because it isn’t funny and both Johnson and Hudson are bit over the top. But is it a good film with words and some likability from Shannon, Randolph, King, Braff, Byrne, Mark Boone Junior (as the handyman Shriver’s buddy), and Jimmi Simpson (as a Cuban cigar smoking detective)? Yes, read between the lines.

Rating: 3 out of 4.

Streaming on VOD

Categories: comedy

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