10 November 2005 | rsoonsa
A Waste Of Good Actors, As The Film Is Taken Down By A Wretched Script.
This reviewer makes a point of stressing at least one praiseworthy element within each film under discussion, no matter how dreadful the overall work may be, but such becomes an enormously formidable task in this instance, as nothing springs to mind largely due to an execrably written script, marrowless direction, quaintly inappropriate cinematography, flawed post-production efforts, specially relative to the sound track, while even the production and set designing calls undue notice to itself. Shot principally in Montreal for Canadian television distribution, its video title an awkward THE TRUTH ABOUT LYING, the film features John Ritter as Simon Barker, an alcoholic true crime writer of whom it has been discovered that he is highly competent in investigative matters, and is therefore utilized to assist in solving homicides that are apparently too complex for the capabilities of the local metropolitan police department's homicide unit, under the supervision of Simon's sister "Inspector Strong" (Samantha Eggar), also a sot, with Barker constructing a best-seller based upon his findings after the resolution of each case, and allotting a percentage of his book income to his sister, because the literary exposition of the crime solving obviously warrants that degree of reader fascination necessary to gather a loyal and well-paying coterie of followers. The crime at hand is, however, not initially one involving murder, but rather kidnapping of an infant (multiple killings to follow) and Simon is soon fraternizing with the kidnap victim's highly dysfunctional family, consisting of a pair of sisters, each hampered by the other's sharing the physical attentions from the husband of one of them, while at the same time Barker attempts to mend his marital breakup, with his teenaged daughter urging him to do so (a typically uneven aspect of the production is a striking visual dissimilitude between blood relatives). The work, therefore, becomes encased within a framework of psychodrama that includes Simon's rather cursory struggle with alcoholism, his efforts to regain the esteem of his former wife in the face of her dismay that he is possibly placing his daughter's life in jeopardy by permitting her to accompany him to crime scenes, the hatred between the contentious sisters over the desired husband (Tony Nardi) along with the latter's endeavours to find a balance between his wife and mistress, the whereabouts of the ofttimes overlooked kidnapped child (played, dependent upon baby behaviour, by triplets), a hopelessly inept and drunken police official and, adding to the mix, the family attorney to the sisters (Roddy McDowall) who has secrets of his own (that are never disclosed). Unfortunately, another item not revealed within the narrative is the identity of the person responsible for one of the slayings, a characteristic drawback of this movie that, in spite of a potentially ingratiating cast of Canadian and American players, falls prey to the script's overage of red herrings, most of which are as telegraphed as is the frequently pretentious dialogue. During one sequence, a character is shot to death while seated at his desk from several feet off, a round penetrating his chest, by an anonymous gloved assassin, who then places the weapon next the victim. In a remarkable subsequent scene, it is disclosed that the police forensic lab has provided hardly startling information that "the angle" of the wound indicates that the death could not have been by suicide! Michele Scarabelli, who is cast as one of the skirmishing sisters, is a natural and skilled actress but she, in addition to Daphne Zuniga (the other sister), Eggar and McDowall, patently lack strong directoral oversight here while Ritter, an able and flexible player, staunchly wades through his scenes, doing his best as also do most of the other actors as they mouth their predictable lines. The accomplished Nardi is unaccountably cursed during his most important scenes with jittery hand-held camera silliness that obviates any attempt he might have made to create his role. All in all, this is a misfire from its outset. Allan Goldstein, who has directed with refinement upon occasion during his career, is seemingly defeated by a woefully written screenplay.