Bill Condon’s The Good Liar gathers British acting royalty, but is not a crowning achievement compared to the career highlights of the principals involved. We have Sir Ian McKellen and Dame Helen Mirren in a twisty con artist tale based on a Nicholas Searle novel.
The film tests the limits of whether having these two leads is good enough. For a decent portion of the running time, the answer is yes. McKellen is Roy Courtnay, who successfully bilks investors out of millions along with partner Vincent (Jim Carter). His latest conquest is The Rich Widow Con and that’s Mirren’s Betty McLeish. Roy’s got patience when it comes to lifting her bank account. He attempts to ingratiate himself to her only grandson (Russell Tovey). Roy soon moves into Betty’s drab home. Past victims of his grifts are on his trail. And there’s a bit of mystery whether their partnership will move beyond platonic.
In its first half, The Good Liar is a concoction as bubbly as the wine Betty enjoys during their first date after meeting online. It is a humorous opening credits touch as they chat on the computer. Roy checks the box for non-smoker as he puffs away on a cigarette. Betty claims not to be a drinker with glass in hand. With these two master thespians bouncing dialogue off one another, it’s often a treat. On the other hand, we aren’t seeing anything unseen in the genre before with the exception of the age of the performers involved.
When flashbacks to Roy and Betty’s pasts come into play later, the pic loses its frothy charms and becomes far more serious and considerably more absurd at the same time. I am not confident that the plot mechanisms that rocket into overdrive in the latter portion hold up on close inspection. It’s telling that some of the reveals aren’t worth racking the brain about. There’s no doubt that McKellen and Mirren’s interplay is fun for awhile. When their story ventures into more weighty subjects, it doesn’t feel earned delving into them.
Pairing Sir Ian McKellen and Dame Helen Mirren together is a potential recipe for awards attention success and that’s happening next weekend with the release of The Good Liar. The thriller comes from Bill Condon, who directed McKellen to one of his two Oscar nods in Gods and Monsters. Mirren has received four Academy recognitions with a win in 2006 for The Queen.
The thriller casts McKellen as a con artist attempting to swindle Mirren’s wealthy widow. Reviews are out and while they’re decent (71% on Rotten Tomatoes), the picture is highly unlikely to be much of a box office success and awards chatter is very quiet. While the two leads are garnering praise for their work, both the lead Actor and Actress categories are already filled with more legitimate contenders.
Bottom line: the truth is that The Good Liar will come up empty-handed come nominations time. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
A sir and a dame team up for the thriller The Good Liar next weekend with hopes to bring in a mature audience. Ian McKellen is the con artist to Helen Mirren’s rich widow. Bill Condon, who directed McKellen to an Oscar nod in 1998’s Gods and Monsters, serves behind the camera. The supporting cast includes Russell Tovey and Jim Carter.
Liar looks to bring in a Downton Abbey crowd looking for something a bit more devilish. Awards buzz would help and Liar appears unlikely to achieve it. Reviews are mixed with a current Rotten Tomatoes rating of 55%. There’s also adult competition in the form of Ford v Ferrari, which should have the pole position for the weekend.
I believe this will fail to achieve a double digits start for the royal talent involved.
The Good Liar opening weekend prediction: $6 million
Mister Rogers isn’t the only PBS star getting the silver screen treatment this fall as DowntonAbbey hits theaters next weekend. Based on the acclaimed drama about an aristocratic British clan in the 1920s, the film picks up after the series finale from 2016. Julian Fellowes, creator of the program which aired stateside on the public access channel, did the screenplay. Michael Engler directs with numerous cast members returning including Hugh Bonneville, Michelle Dockery, Laura Carmichael, Jim Carter, Elizabeth McGovern, Matthew Goode, Penelope Wilton, and Maggie Smith.
Abbey had lots of dedicated followers to go with its multitude of Emmys and they should be curious to see the saga continue. While some could choose to wait and watch the family on the small screen like they’re accustomed to, I suspect a sizable amount will turn up in the cinema.
I was surprised to see this is set to premiere on over 3000 screens. That puts it in contention to compete with Rambo: LastBlood and AdAstra as the weekend’s highest grossing newcomer. My estimate of just over $20 million puts it just ahead of Mr. Stallone and ahead of Mr. Pitt.
DowntonAbbey opening weekend prediction: $20.8 million
Fans of the British period piece series DowntonAbbey, which aired stateside on PBS, will get their fix nearly four years after its conclusion with a film version. Written by its creator Julian Fellowes, Abbey picks up shortly after the events of the series finale with many cast members (Hugh Bonneville, Maggie Smith, and more) returning to their roles.
The show was no stranger to major awards attention, including Golden Globes, BAFTAs, SAGs, and dozens of Emmy nods. Could that TV love translate to Oscar voters noticing the cinematic rendering?
Probably not in major categories. Abbey has a current Rotten Tomatoes score of 80% and while reviews are solid, I don’t see this getting attention in Picture or the acting derbies. On the other hand, Production Design and especially Costume Design could be doable. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…