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Published January 1st, 2004 | by Richard Strachan

Where the Truth Lies Review

Classification: 18 Director: Atom Egoyan Rating: 4/5

Canadian director Atom Egoyan further explores his signature themes of obsession, voyeurism and control in this thriller about the twisted relationships between two ‘Rat Pack’ era showmen and the journalist investigating the reasons behind their showbiz split, based on the novel by Rupert Holmes.

In 1972, ambitious reporter Karen O’Connor (Alison Lohman) is dispatched by her publisher to interview Vince Collins (Colin Firth), a faded entertainer who is willing to collaborate on a book about his career in exchange for a one million dollar payment. Karen has long been obsessed with Vince, and his estranged partner Lanny Morris (Kevin Bacon), whom she first met as a young girl overcoming polio at the duo’s 1957 celebrity telethon. Morris and Collins’ career fell apart soon after, rocked by a hushed-up scandal involving the discovery of hotel maid Maureen O’Flaherty’s (Rachel Blanchard) body in their New Jersey hotel.

As Karen researches the period, her book is thrown off track after she receives an excerpt from Lanny Morris’ forthcoming memoir, which threatens to reveal the truth about the pill-popping, promiscuous lifestyle the two stars led in the 1950s. After a chance meeting on a plane to New York, Karen begins a deceptive relationship with Lanny, while slowly being seduced into Vince’s studied and amoral LA world.

Where the Truth Lies caused some controversy in the USA, where it earned a restrictive NC-17 rating on account of its supposedly explicit sex scenes, but in the era of Baise Moi and 9 Songs, the sex is not particularly shocking. Egoyan gets excellent performances from his leading men, Firth exuding sleazy charm as a suave, English version of Dean Martin, while Bacon easily inhabits the fast-talking Jerry Lewis role of Lanny Morris. With Lanny describing their working relationship as basically a ‘boy-girl act’, the homoerotic charge is subtly underplayed until the revelatory moment that explains Maureen’s death, killed not by the repressed homosexual Vince Collins, but by Lanny’s controlling personal assistant, Reuben (David Hayman), after she tried to blackmail the duo. The 1950s atmosphere of casual sex, glamour and violence is undercut by the soft-focus, pastel-coloured lighting, while the sharper 1970s scenes are evoked with strong contrasts and garish colours. Lohman is good as Karen O’Connor, but occasionally seems too passive in her role, and never quite expresses the character’s underlying need for control, and the way in which that control is taken away from her.

The film takes several cues from Hitchcock, not just in the slow unfolding of the narrative and the way in which the characters’ various deceptions and strategies play against each other, but particularly in Mychael Danna’s moody and sinuous score, a fine contrast to the swinging numbers performed by Lanny and Vince onstage and in the clubs. Egoyan makes good use of voiceover and flashback to turn the puzzle over, throwing out misleading hints about the identity of the murderer, while letting the audience work it out at the same time as the disillusioned Karen. A creepy and disturbing addition to Egoyan’s creepy and disturbing canon.

Making of, cast and crew interviews, trailers, deleted scenes

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