Monday, October 20, 2014

THE GOOD LIE: a review

I'm a couple days' work away from finishing a new script - a sci-fi/thriller/alien-possession space epic. A real nail-biter (I hope) and the sort of thing that, if I got stupid-lucky, could one day turn into a buh-jillion dollar blockbuster extravaganza. I'm writing this script because I love sci-fi, and because there's an underlying story there about human connection, and love. 

And right now, I'm doubting if it's worth it. 

I just got back from watching The Good Lie, and it had me on the brink of tears (and sometimes over) from the very start. It's already on my top-ten for 2014, and here's why: this is the sort of film that should win Oscars. It probably won't, but it should, because it's important.

I've been interested in the country of Sudan since around 1999, when I did some industrial treeplanting in the wilds of British Columbia with a Sudanese political refugee named Emmanuel. Emmanuel was a man with the scars of torture all over him. A man who was doing a back-breaking, piecework job to save up money to buy the livestock that would cover the dowry for the fiancee he'd been forced to leave behind in the Congo. Perhaps it was he who told me about the Lost Boys of Sudan - groups of boys from the Dinka and Nuer ethnic groups, who were killed and displaced by the millions. Thousands upon thousands of orphaned children were forced to walk for hundreds upon hundreds of miles, braving murder by roving soldiers, disease, starvation, and wild animals. A few survived, making it to refugee camps in other countries where they endured subsistence living, and grew to adulthood bearing the scars of their truly horrific experiences. Some of them found sponsors and came to America, where they encountered entirely new and seemingly endless tribulations. 

This past year I read the novelized biography "What is the What," by David Eggers. It tells the story of Valentino Achak Deng, who was one of those Lost Boys. It is a difficult, difficult read, and I remember getting through it and thinking that everybody should read it. People should know. They should realize that the world is an unjust place. 

People should be forced to think about the fact that until there is justice, peace, and health for everyone, then no one can be truly free. The blood of the innocents cries out... not for our pity - for they're as beautifully human as we - but for our humanity. Our love. 

The Good Lie is a beautiful, beautiful love story most likely inspired by the novel, "What is the What" (the last name of the main character is Deng, and I could feel the spirit of the book and many of its moments throughout the movie). 

The film is heart-wrenching, it is funny, and (like all good stories) it is a love story.

It is a love story that is not over. 

There are still millions starving worldwide. There are still wars, and people who think the solution to violence is more war. There are still a million tiny injustices the world over, where the vicious, cunning, and conniving win - where kind and gentle innocents are run over in the name of power, money, and indifference. Indifference like mine... like yours.

In light of that, I shrug my shoulders and ask why, when movies like this are getting made, I bother writing what feels right now to be a little bit like nonsense. I don't have an answer to that, except to maybe dig back into my script, and make absolutely certain that in some way it, too, is a love story. 

Do me a favor, though... go see this movie while it's still in theaters. It's currently sitting at 85% on Rotten Tomatoes. It's got a brilliant cast, with stellar performances from its genuine Lost-Boys stars, and wonderful work from supporting actors Reese Witherspoon, Corey Stoll, and Sarah Baker (et al). Vote with your dollars for the sort of film that ought to be made. The kind that shines a light on injustice, while at the same time painting a picture of a love that expands our concept of what it can mean to be human.

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Addendum: Margaret Nagle, writer of "The Good Lie," has tweeted to inform me that her script was written in 2005... so before Eggers' novel. Cheers.

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