(Dis)Honesty: The Truth About Lies doesn't cut too deep when it comes to its topic of lying, but at least it's not dull or boring. Director Yael Melamede chooses Dan Arielu, a psychology professor at Duke University, as her main source of information as she includes footage of him lecturing. Fortunately, Ariely is quite a captivating lecturer because he's both articulate, charismatic and witty. How can people lie yet still consider themselves to be good people? That's a question that Ariely explored through his scientific experiments on lying has him selecting a group of people to take a multiple choice math exam and let them decide how many questions they got right or wrong after shredding the exam sheet. They get paid if they answered all the questions correctly. Little do the test-takers know that the machine only shredded the sides of the paper, so Ariely has a way of knowing who lied and by how much they lied. His conclusions of that experiment and others are interesting albeit not shocking: everyone lies to a certain degree and has a "fudge factor" that allows for them to lie up to a point without sacrificing their dignity. Lying increases when two people collaborate together. Melamede also incorporates interviews with a wide variety of liars from cheating wives to bankers who explain what their thought process was when they were lying particularly how they justified the lie to themselves (i.e. the banker guilty of insider justified it because many others did it so it became normal). One interviewee states that a lie is like a knife: it's okay if it's used to butter your own bread, but not if it's used to stab someone. Bits of wisdom like that deserve more elaboration and exploration. What's also missing from this doc are more insights and revelations about the root of lying. Perhaps it all has something to do with various degrees of narcissism? It's not enough to say that it's just an innate part of human nature and that animals lie too. At an ideal running time of 90 minutes, (Dis)Honesty is lively, witty and captivating with a few interesting kernels of wisdom, but not particularly profound, surprising or truly revelatory. It opens via BOND/360 at IFC Center.
Nana (Jennifer Connelly), a single mother, loses her cancer-stricken son, Gully (Winta McGrath), in an accident. She soon abandons her older son, Ivan (Zen McGrath), whose grandfather ends up taking care of him. 20 years later, Ivan (now played by Cillian Murphy), is married with kids and hasn't seen his mother since she abandoned him. A filmmaker, Ressmore (Mélanie Laurent), follows Ivan with her camera for a documentary and pursuades him to travel with her to reunite with his long-lost mother who's working as a healer in the North Pole.
Writer/director Claudia Llosa has woven an intricate story with complex emotions and moral ambiguity in a non-linear fashion that deflates the film's dramatic momentum. The non-linear structure leaves more questions than answers and causes confusion more often than not. Nana and Ivan are both interesting enough as characters, so the elliptical nature of the way that Llosa tells their story makes it difficult to focus on those characters because you'll be confused more often than not. The wintry landscape serves as a character within itself while the blanket snow can be seen as a lyrical metaphor for things, i.e. emotions, that are buried deep and gradually thawing as the film progresses.
Llosa does do a great job of establishing a somber mood and atmosphere which feels reminiscent of The Sweet Hereafter at times. However, whenever you start to be emotionally involved, intrigued or entertained, the transitions between the scenes diminish all of that because of the awkward editing. It also doesn't help that the ending feels abrupt and leaves you with bad aftertaste. Unfortunately, even the convincingly moving performance Jennifer Connelly can't save Aloft.
When Marnie Was There