The Good Lie is a movie based on the true story of the Lost Boys of Sudan, a load of young kids who trekked across the Sudan in order to reach another country and thus avoid genocide. This book begins with the trip across the country and then jumps ahead to follow four of those kids as they, now adults, travel to America. The trailer essentially makes this look like a typical “white knight” story with Reese Witherspoon as the central character. “She opened her home,” the trailer says, “They opened her eyes.” Well, it’s actually quite a bit better than that. The script is better than I’d feared. And the film is definitely the story of the three young Sudanese men; Witherspoon is a supporting player, really, in terms of screen time and all that, though it’s easy to see why the studio wanted to give the impression she was the star. The central three performances are really good and the film gains some heft from the fact that the actors are all either actual former refugees or children of former refugees. There are a lot of really powerful moments here, actually, and the film has an honest-to-God theme, ie. survivor’s guilt. There’s a great scene with Witherspoon talking about her sister, who died of cancer, that underlines the fact that this feeling of “why was I the lucky one?” is one that we all have to deal with at one time or another. And the principle of the “good lie” is a powerful one; the scene in which the idea of the selfless lie is introduced is really emotionally effecting and is my favorite moment in the film. The film is darker than the trailer might indicate as well; the script follows one character on a self-destructive journey started by his feelings of isolation and rootlessness. The film gets hokey in the last twenty minutes or so; the film raises some serious emotional and cultural issues and then kind of hand-waves them with a happy, contrived ending. Actually, a kind of annoying ending, at least in one way. It really hammers home the whole “good lie” thing, which is too bad because the way it had raised the issue before was really surprisingly subtle. And it doesn’t make a whole lot of good sense either. But the film was surprisingly good, really. On the whole, you’d be better served spending your time watching other movies about these issues, but it’s a film that’s definitely above average, especially for its genre. I don’t recommend it or recommend against it either one; just whatever. 2 ½ stars.
tl;dr – surprisingly thoughtful film finds thematic resonance and real emotion at times, but has plenty of clichés and ultimately resolves itself with a contrived, corny ending. 2 ½ stars.