Good Lie: Reese Witherspoon Dominates issue Film

the_good_lie_poster“The Good Lie,” the fact-inspired tale of Sudanese refugees emigrating to America, stars Reese Witherspoon, who enjoys some sort of a comeback this year; her other, more interesting (Oscar card?) film is “Wild.”

World premiering at the 2014 Toronto Film Fest, “The Good Lie” will be released by Warner in early October.

Like other Hollywood social-issue films, “The Good Lie” is simple, earnest, and inspirational, centering on a feisty white heroine.  In this respect, Witherspoon’s Carrie is similar in some respects to the strong and beautiful working class women who have defined such popular films asMorma Rae” (Sally Field), “Erin Brockovich” (Julia Roberts), “North Country” (Charlize Theron), and “The Blind Side” (Sandra Bullock).

If you look at the poster for the film, you see how shrewd and deceptive the marketing campaign is, placing a photo of the charming Witherspoon that is disproportionate in size to the real heroes, the Sudanian men.  Warner is aware that what will attract Americans to their picture is the power of their female star, rather than the unsung immigrants or the subject matter.

Screenwriter Margaret Nagle (better known for the TV “Boardwalk Empire”) has written a smart and enjoyable tale, populated by fictionalized characters that are based on real Sudanese refugees.  But the approach taken by director Philippe Falardeau may be too conventional, playing it too safe, not trusting his viewers that they can absorb a tougher film, as far as social and political messages are concerned.

The film tells the arduous, moving story of four Sudanese refugees who are offered shelter in the U.S. as part of a resettlement effort of nearly 3,600, dubbed the “The Lost Boys of Sudan.”  They arrive in America 13 years after militia attacks left them orphaned and homeless, and one year before 9/11 had forced authorities to suspend the program due to serious terrorist concerns.

the_good_lie_3_witherspoonThe family, which loses two members before reaching the refugee camp, is forced to split up after going through customs in New York.  The three men, Jeremiah (Ger Duany), Paul (Emmanuel Jal) and default “chief” Mamere (Arnold Oceng) share an apartment in Kansas City, Missouri, while their sister, Abital (Kuoth Wiel), is sent off to Boston.

Witherspoon plays Carrie, an employment counselor, who meets them at the airport and tries to help them to deal with adjustment and acculturation issues that the authorities seem to be making all the more difficult than they naturally are.

Most of the members go through horrible time, struggling with drug abuse, and culture collision in confronting different value systems. But there are individual variations among them.  While Jeremiah resigns from his supermarket stocker job, Mamere studies medicine and becomes a doctor.


The last reel, which is the most dramatically engaging, depicts how Carrie, erh boss (Corey Stoll) and various other bureaucrats help to get Abital moved to Missouri and assist Mamere track down a long-lost loved one

There are many poignant, even (unintentionally) funny moments. Mamere doesn’t realize he’s offending when he nicknames Carrie “Yaardit,” which means “great white cow,” because, for him, the term connotes respect.


Canadian helmer Falardeau, who has previously made the 2012 foreign-language Oscar nominee “Monsieur Lazhar,” directs in the English language for the first time, and he should be commended for casting Sudanian actors, some of whom with real connection to the political events.

End Note:

the_good_lie_1_witherspoonThe subjects matter is not entirely new: There have been riveting docus, such as “God Grew Tired of Us” or “The Lost Boys of Sudan.”