Film review: Reese Witherspoon and Sudanese refugees in The Good Lie | Film Review | Indy Week
Pin It

Film review: Reese Witherspoon and Sudanese refugees in The Good Lie 

Okwar Jale and Kon Akoue Auok in 
The Good Lie.

Photo by Kelly Walsh

Okwar Jale and Kon Akoue Auok in The Good Lie.

Reese Witherspoon is an interesting actress who can be hard to take seriously.

She's as good as any A-list star at avoiding bombs, give or take a This is War or two, and she won an Oscar for her role as June Carter Cash in Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line. But she doesn't project the gravitas of other actresses of her generation who have less box-office clout, perhaps because of her enduring association with silly fare such as Legally Blonde.

This year is supposed to change that, with two Oscar-bait films starring Witherspoon opening within a couple of months of each other. Studios are often wary of rival films leaching votes away from their own release, and sooner or later, one blinks and moves its release date. But after watching THE GOOD LIE, I don't think anyone connected to December's Wild needs to worry about that.

The Good Lie is the true story of a group of young survivors caught up in the Sudanese civil war. After their entire village is massacred, six children attempt to make their way on foot to refugee camps in Kenya. After numerous run-ins with enemy militias sent to murder every child they find, four of the children make it to the relative safety of the camps: pre-teen de facto chief Mamere (Arnold Oceng), devout Jeremiah (Ger Duany), troubled Paul (Emmanuel Jal) and Mamere's sister Abital (Kuoth Wiel).

After years in the camps, the four, now young adults, enter the U.S. through a government refugee program. This comes with its own problems: The program is expensive, and each refugee must eventually pay the government back or risk deportation. Plus, Abital is sent to Boston while the three men are relocated to Kansas City. They must adapt to their new surroundings and vocational situations while dealing with the unexpected loss of another family member.

Witherspoon chews the scenery as Carrie Davis, an employment agency rep that finds work for newly arrived refugees. Davis is a brassy spitfire who lives in a filthy apartment and has affairs with Waffle House managers during their lunch breaks. Despite being told by her boss (House of Cards' Corey Stoll) not to get attached to the three men, it isn't long before Carrie is hunting the streets for Paul.

There isn't much explanation for Carrie's sudden interest in her clients' problems, which is a general issue with the film's characterizations. We know that Paul is sad because he spends all his screen time smoking marijuana and scowling; we gather that Mamere is buckling under the pressure of leadership. But it's never brought up explicitly until the film needs a fight scene. Likewise, Jeremiah's new church is never mentioned until the filmmakers realize they need an uplifting sermon at the end.

This muddled tone affects everything. Witherspoon is pushed as the star of the film, despite being a supporting member of the cast. Strong religious themes normally indicate that a studio is counting on churches to push attendance, but the dialogue has too many goddamns and fucks for a Crown Award nomination.

By never settling on strong points of view for the main characters, director Phillipe Falardeau (Monsieur Lazhar) and screenwriter Margaret Nagle (HBO's Boardwalk Empire) fail to sufficiently tell the tale of these "Lost Boys of the Sudan." There is a great film to be made from this story, but this isn't it.

This article appeared in print with the headline "The kids aren't all right."

  • There's a great story to be told about these "Lost Boys of the Sudan," but this isn't it

Film Details

The Good Lie
Rated PG-13 · 110 min. · 2014
Official Site: www.thegoodliemovie.com
Director: Philippe Falardeau
Writer: Margaret Nagle
Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Arnold Oceng, Ger Duany, Emmanuel Jal, Corey Stoll, Kuoth Wiel, Sarah Baker, Peterdeng Mongok, Okwar Jale and Thon Kueth

Trailer


Now Playing

Sorry there are no upcoming showtimes for The Good Lie

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Film Review



Twitter Activity

Most Recent Comments

I am indeed very happy for my life; My name is Vargas Cynthia I never thought that I will live …

by Vargas Cynthia on Axis of Cinema (Film Review)

The lobster is arbitrarily asinine, disjointed, and gratuitously violent towards both humans and former humans that "didn't make it." If …

by Marco_Polo on The Lobster Surreally Skewers Society’s Fear of Single People (Film Review)

The only peeople who murdered those boys were let off by an inexperienced prosecutor and hoodwinked judge. The facts are …

by Greg 1 on The West Memphis Three are free ... what about the real killer? (Film Review)

"Miles Ahead"... "opening Friday".... where? I'm having a tough time finding film times/locations on www.indyweek.com now. The …

by Tbone on Don Cheadle’s Miles Davis Film, Miles Ahead, Isn’t a Real Biopic—It’s Something Better (Film Review)

Comments

I am indeed very happy for my life; My name is Vargas Cynthia I never thought that I will live …

by Vargas Cynthia on Axis of Cinema (Film Review)

The lobster is arbitrarily asinine, disjointed, and gratuitously violent towards both humans and former humans that "didn't make it." If …

by Marco_Polo on The Lobster Surreally Skewers Society’s Fear of Single People (Film Review)

Most Read

No recently-read stories.

Visit the archives…

© 2016 Indy Week • 201 W. Main St., Suite 101, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation