GREG'S GRADE: A-
What treasures Helen Mirren and Ian McKellen are, and what a gift director Bill Condon has given us by pairing them up in "The Good Liar," a delightfully twisty tale.
Based on a 2016 novel by Nicholas Searle, the movie follows Roy Courtnay (McKellen), an elderly British gentleman who chats up the recently widowed Betty McLeish (Mirren) on a dating website and quickly ingratiates himself into her life. Their courtship would be adorable if it were real, and part of me wishes it were so. McKellen and Mirren are such a joy to watch together, Roy playing the part of the charming, doddering old man with a bum knee and Betty so kind, caring and grateful for his companionship.
But, as indicated by the movie's title, there's more at work. Roy is a career con man — a particularly ruthless one when the need arises — with his sights set on Betty's small fortune, and he means to take every last pound for himself. Even Vincent (Jim Carter), his longtime business partner, is taken aback by his greed in this case. When Betty's grandson, Steven (Russell Tovey), suspicious of Roy from the start, starts digging, we haven't a clue what he will find — and neither does Roy.
There are hints along the way that Betty also may not be completely what she appears and even stronger suggestions that Roy's feelings for her may be more than an act.
Working from a screenplay by Jeffrey Hatcher, Condon concocts a Hitchcockian blend of drama, thriller, comedy, mystery and misdirection. It all builds to a big reveal that's not quite the jaw-dropping "wow" moment the filmmakers probably were going for — another reveal in the second act is more effective— but the many pleasures of the journey far outweigh any disappointment in the destination.
Someone please find another project for Mirren and McKellen immediately.
Rated R for some strong violence, and for language and brief nudity. 109 minutes.
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