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Brilliant Lies  

Brilliant Lies is a very truthful and cynical tale of a web of complex emotions underneath what seems like a simple case of sexual harassment. It won't please most people, but that's where the entertainment value lies. It doesn't try to please anyone.

Suzy accuses her superior of the firm she works for as a secretary of sexual harassment. This stems from a period of several months of vicious phone calls by him to her desk, and ends in a pig-headed sexual advance. Gary, however, insists he was making no such advance, but was trying to help an employee who wasn't really making herself useful.

Yet things are not all cut and dry. Both these characters are very unsympathetic - and lying. Suzy is clearly lying about her original story, as we see only a few minutes into the movie, when she tells her lesbian sister much of what she said was clearly false. Suzy is clearly, at least from this point, doing this for the money. She tries to convince her sister they both need lots of money to get away from the drudgery of urban life, so Suzy wants 40000 dollars. She even wants her to lie, and say that on the fateful night Suzy went home crying to a comforting Katy (in flashbacks which are clearly phony.) Suzy is also quite willing to manipulate and lie to her sister in hopes of distracting her from Suzy's lies. In one scene, she successfully convinces Katy that the female mediator was a lesbian and was coming on to her during the meeting.

Gary is also a dangerous character. He is liable to explode in a fierce rage when things don't go his way. His own boss doesn't trust him, and has his own eyewitness account to suggest Gary is not a saint. The boss reveals Gary's own flaws to him, that he discards women all the time, that he demeans them. And as well, Gary has a trick up his sleeve which throws much doubt towards him. If he is telling the truth, why is he so suspicious of his boss that he would be willing to commit a hostile takeover of the company. Clearly, Gary figures his financial skin will be saved if he can buy out the company and make the shareholders foot at least part of the bill.

The testimony in the courtroom reveals a shocking event which is more vicious than anything said by the two participants beforehand. It is understandable why such an event would be hidden from view, since it revolves around something more intimate and complex than an isolated and rude sexual gesture. Yet, I was bombarded with so many lies and shadings of the truth, even this climax threw me in doubt. I personally was so caught up in the web of deceit created by these two so-called rational people that I did not feel willing to believe anything being said by virtually anyone. Even now, I cannot say whether Suzy's final story is correct.

The only real problem with the movie is that, even at 88 minutes long, it contains a sub-plot which was probably unnecessary. It involves the sister's father, an alternately amusing and painfully melodramatic old coot, who apparently carries a dark family secret not revealed until near the end. This helps explain the animosity between him and the sisters, but it probably doesn't do much for the movie. When he first appeared on screen, I assumed he was either being played for laughs or a fairly bad actor. His words and acting style don't suggest the horrible skeleton in the closet which falls out in front of us. It offers a tiny psychological motive for the event's in Suzy's original story, but, the way the whole sub-plot is treated may strike some viewers as lacking in thought or even sensitivity.

This film is like a bucket of water thrown at those who like to believe the radical feminist treatment that all women are victims and men are the evil wrong-doers, or just the simple belief that these situations are easy to solve. It reveals something which should be common-sense: people will do anything to get what they want, even at the expense of hurting others. Suzy and Gary want to live in a fantasy world, free of all problems and the actions of others, and when that fantasy is punctured, the claws come out. In a way, these two people deserve each other, because they both are such reckless, selfish swine who like nothing better than seeing another person get hurt. At first, anger built within me over Suzy's greedy actions. Even if someone said something you really didn't like, there is no reason why you should totally destroy the man's livelihood; none whatsoever. By that logic, almost all of us would have to sue for having heard something offensive. But at the same time, if Suzy's final story is true, and based on the evidence, Gary himself deserves some sort of punishment. He has a brutal rage towards women in general, and much of his namecalling reveals that.

But, for me, it all comes down to a bit of common sense. When people sue restranants for millions of dollars, and win, because a bit of (albiet hot) coffee spills on them, it is proof that we don`t live in a rational society. People treat honest accidents as a personal attack on them, and therefore must be avenged. People are looking out for number one. Just the same, anyone who treats people like garbage, instead of as they would like to be treated, also reeks of selfishness. If people were to get out of their self interested shells for a while, the world would be a much better place.

David Macdonald

David Macdonald's Movie Reviews

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