The disappointment of Where the Truth Lies can only be akin to the anguish felt by a high school senior boy who shells out hundreds of dollars to impress his prom date, and then never gets past first base.
The latest offering from writer-director Atom Egoyan (Exotica, The Sweet Hereafter) looks intoxicatingly promising at first: The films seductively rendered poster, with its half-naked pinup and smoky sepia tones, suggests steamy noir intrigue, à la L.A. Confidential. Then theres the controversial rating; because of several graphic sex scenes, the film was slapped with an NC-17 rating, which director Egoyan unsuccessfully challenged. But for all the foreplay of film noir promise and controversy over the candid depictions of rampant debauchery and orgiastic revelry, the whole thing is really just an overdrawn bore. And Kevin Bacon sings. If you can call it that.
The film begins in the 1950s, centering on the wildly successful comedy duo of wacky guy Lanny Morris (Bacon) and straight man Vince Collins (Colin Firth), who are at the height of fame, packing in the crowds at nightclubs, and yanking Americas heartstrings during polio telethons. Nothing can tinge their glittery fame and fortune until a dead blonde shows up floating in the tub of their posh hotel suite. Although the two are cleared of any wrongdoing, they never quite overcome the scandal, split up and fade away into obscurity.
Years later, in the 70s, intrepid up-and-coming reporter Karen OConnor played by Alison Lohman, who barely looks old enough to buy smokes negotiates a six-figure book deal for Collins. The caveat: Collins must be willing to discuss the death of the young girl, which the duo had never publicly spoken about.
Unfortunately, OConnor isnt much of a reporter. Her idea of journalistic integrity is giving a false name to Morris when shes accidentally seated next to him on a flight, then boffing him in his hotel room. To add to her dignity and impartiality, she later takes mystery pills from Collins and, in a drug-induced haze, pops her lesbian cherry with a girl dressed like Alice from Alice in Wonderland while he watches. Judith Miller, take note.
OConnor is the central role, but Lohman is nowhere near pulling it off. When she tries to play hardball with a source, the result is like watching Strawberry Shortcake try to shake down a drug dealer.
Both Bacon and Firth are solid and occasionally outstanding in their respective roles, but theres no real chemistry between them onscreen. And its particularly alarming to see the ever-so-dapperly British Firth in a vintage tux, getting a double hummer.
While some of the storys surprise twists are engaging, for the most part this a train wreck. But with its beautifully rendered retro sets and costumes, its a damn slick and pretty train wreck.
Showing at the Main Art Theatre (118 N. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-263-2111).
Sarah Klein is Metro Times culture editor. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.