Nantucket Film Festival: ‘The Lie’ Is Smart and True-To-Life

Coming up with excuses to miss work is a delicate craft. If the lie sounds too simple, you may not get away with it, but if it’s too intricate, the entire situation can blow up in your face. In The Lie, Lonnie takes his excuse a bit too far, causing a darkly comical series of events to take place that ultimately change his family life with wife Clover and daughter Xana.

Co-written, directed by and starring Joshua Leonard, The Lie begins on a fairly relatable note. Leonard plays Lonnie, a one-time idealistic youth who is forced into a horrible office job with an abusive boss after he and his wife Clover (Jess Weixler) have an unexpected baby, Xana (Violet Long). One day, Lonnie decides he is fed up with the disappointing life his family leads and calls out of work. Unfortunately, his boss threatens to fire him if he doesn’t show up, causing Lonnie to blurt out a horrible lie that is poised to blow up in the faces of himself and his wife.

At one point or another, we’ve all been there, second-guessing our life choices and at least wondering what it would be like if we were forced to make a dramatic change. The realism behind The Lie, which is based on a short story by T. C. Boyle, is what ultimately makes the movie appealing. Leonard may have taken a risk casting himself as the lead character, but in the end, his choice may have been for the best—Leonard’s “very utilitarian choice” saved himself directing time by knowing exactly how he envisioned Lonnie’s personality. It was fascinating to learn that 95 percent of the dialogue, according to Leonard, was improvised, which makes the actors’ performances, especially Weixler’s, even more commendable and realistic.

Perhaps the one issue with the film is the ending. Leonard and his cast had to take many liberties with the short story, creating certain back-stories, like that of Lonnie’s friend and bandmate Tank (Mark Webber). The end, however, was perhaps the most daring and somewhat floundering move. The short story ends with Lonnie leaving after Clover kicks him out of the house, but the film has Lonnie decide to return to his family. While this makes for a happier ending for sure, the move seems so sudden that it almost feels unauthentic.

That being said, however, Leonard’s end at least makes sense for the characters he built, as Lonnie, Clover and Xana decide to run away from the dull lives they’ve fallen into—the characters are built up to be somewhat of a hippie couple that fell into corporate America. The extremely realistic relationship the actors have created could easily make any nine-to-five office worker second-guess their own life choices, though hopefully the film doesn’t give anyone ideas on calling in sick, because Lonnie’s is definitely a bad one.

The Lie is part dark comedy, part drama and all extremely realistic. On Lonnie’s “days off,” Leonard does a good job at not overdoing his emotions so the audience doesn’t obviously see the conflict swirling around in his head. Still, the tension is obviously there, even if it is subdued throughout most of the film. The audience remains tense, as well, as it’s only a matter of time before Lonnie’s mistake catches up to him—and, without giving much away, it’s safe to say that Weixler does an amazing job with her silent reaction and facial expression when the truth is out.

The Lie premiered at Sundance 2011 and screened at the Nantucket Film Festival Thursday and Friday, June 23 and 24. Director Joshua Leonard has worked in film for 15 years, getting his start as an actor in The Blair Witch Project.

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