The Good Lie—Movie Review

Fictionalizing a true-life story has many pitfalls, but The Good Lie dodges most of them as it creates a genuinely moving drama, unapologetically wearing its heart on its sleeve. If you want a “pure” version of this material, check out Lost Boys of Sudan (2003) or God Grew Tired of Us (2006). But since most moviegoers don’t seek out documentaries, this studio production, with Reese Witherspoon in a key role, will bring the heart-rending story of the Sudanese immigrants to a much wider audience.

Photo by Bob Mahoney - courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Photo by Bob Mahoney – courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

It’s difficult to imagine all that the “lost boys” have endured, fleeing from brutal violence in their war-ravaged villages, losing their parents and closest family members, walking thousands of miles to find a safe haven, then being airlifted to the United States and a way of life that nothing could prepare them for.
Working with largely inexperienced African-born actors, director Philippe Falardeau (who gave us the beautiful Monsieur Lazhar) manages to make scripted scenes seem genuine and unrehearsed. When Witherspoon enters the picture it’s momentarily jarring, but her character is well defined, and her transformation from uncaring employment agency worker to loyal ally is believably drawn.


Photo by Bob Mahoney - courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Photo by Bob Mahoney – courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Opportunities for sentiment abound, but Falardeau holds them in check until the final portion of the film when—I freely admit—I cried several times. Screenwriter Margaret Nagle interviewed many Sudanese survivors and synthesized their stories into her straightforward narrative. It’s humbling to witness the saga of the Lost Boys (so well played by Arnold Oceng, Ger Duany, Emmanuel Jal, and Kuoth Wiel, as their sister) and realize that thousands of them live among us here in America.
The only thing I don’t like about The Good Lie is its title, which wouldn’t inspire me to go out and see it. Please don’t let it put you off; this is a solid and rewarding film.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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April 2024