Lack of Energy Bogs Down Blumhouse's "The Lie"

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Blumhouse The Lie

There’s nothing like a murder to bring a broken family together.

That’s the core conceit of Blumhouse Films’ latest release, The Lie, and there are not-so-subtle parallels between the bleak wintry setting and the cold emotional distance of a once-happy family shattered by divorce and miscommunication. The frigid cinematography of the opening scenes in upstate New York, where teenaged Kayla admits to her divorcee father that she purposely pushed her friend from a footbridge into the freezing river waters below serve to set up the icy tone of lies, deceit and eventual bloodshed that follows.

The Lie begins with Jay (Peter Sarsgaard), a middle-aged musician who ‘hangs out with the vermin’, agreeing to take his daughter to a ballet company retreat at the behest of high-society cop-turned-lawyer ex-wife Rebecca (Mireille Enos). As estranged parents, Jay and Rebecca barely connect, ignorant of both one another’s new love interests and Kayla’s (Joey King) secretive descent into low self-esteem and self-harm. When, halfway to the ballet retreat asthmatic Kayla sees attractive classmate Britney standing alone at a rural bus stop, she convinces her father to give her friend a ride, a good deed punished when Britney goes missing and Kayla confesses to one parent, then the other, her own culpability in the crime.  

The enshrined idea of The Lie is how far parents are willing to go in order to protect their children, even when the urge is misguided and destructive; Jay and Rebecca, barely on speaking terms at the film’s onset, must reestablish communicative links with each other and Kayla in order to prevent authorities discovering just what occurred at the bridge, a task complicated by Kayla’s seeming sociopathic indifference to her violent actions (she’s seen at one point nonchalantly watching cartoons), and by Britney’s desperately searching father Sam. The lie referenced in the film’s title inevitably only begets more deception, an attempted framing and, ultimately, murder. Yet even as the final frames play and the devastating plot upends any hope for a tidy solution, it’s clear that father, mother and daughter have succeeded at reconnecting despite the tragic personal costs, a perverse positivism imposed on a movie filled with pathos.

Despairingly optimistic heart or not, the overwhelming hindrance to The Lie is in its pacing. Though adequately staged by writer-director Veena Sud, the film’s ninety-five minutes are hardly brisk viewing and display a distinct lack of energy, the lofty ambitions inherent in the tense situation lost in a mostly forgettable swamp of long, slow, moody shots intended to increase the anxiety but that only drag the plot down to the level of a made-for-Lifetime domestic drama. Audience attention begins to wander at the halfway point, and when the (regrettably predictable) climactic confrontation ensues between Jay, Rebecca and Sam, it’s action that’s too little, too late.

Despite this, The Lie is well-acted fare that offers beautifully chilling visuals--from the constant snow to the ice-blue eyes of Kayla as she stares out a window, one can feel the cold, both outside in the winter landscape and inside the character’s dark souls.

I give it a 2.5 (out of 5) on my Fang Scale.

Grade: 
2.5 / 5.0