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Cinema Signal:

Where the Truth Lies
The Novel by Rupert Holmes
in Paperback


. "Where the Truth Lies"

This character piece about a song and dance duo, and murder, belongs solidly in the annals of noir mystery and suspense. As it uncovers the true character of popular entertainers sometime in the 1970s, it becomes more and more sinister and intriguing, along the lines of a different kind of coverup under investigation, Robert Towne's unforgettable "Chinatown."

The investigator here is a journalist, one with a personal attachment to the events as well as exceptional sensuality. Karen O'Connor (Allison Lohman) is determined to learn the truth behind what could have wrenched Vince Collins (Colin Firth) and Lanny Morris (Kevin Bacon) off the stage at a time when their act seemed to be at the top of its success, years ago.

That act was a case of song and dance, sometimes corny, but always goodhearted enough to include telethons for the benefit of victims of Polio. In private, they are also given to great acts of debauchery, womanizing and protective violence and working as a nightclub act for one of the most dangerous mob bosses in the rackets (Maury Chaykin). Their butler (David Hayman) is a study in dedication to their needs and image, the man who is always ready to clean up their messes.

After getting the assignment to write a book on the pair of ex-hoofers that are so much in her thoughts, Karen finds herself inadvertently on a plane, sharing a dinner table with her subjects and their butler. In a scene loaded with the tension of distrust, she hides her real identity and purposes by lying. She avoids, thereby, reminding them that she was their polio recovery poster girl that Lanny once cried over, on camera -- a moment in TV glory that inspired her deep love for the guy.

The story is maddeningly non-linear. Slices of time dissect the narrative into puzzle pieces that gradually come together to define the puzzle. There's a corpse involved. A beautiful woman named Maureen (Rachel Blanchard), a hotel employee. Found naked in a bathtub, presumably drowned. Presumably a suicide. Could it have something to do with the story Karen is pursuing? Does it relate to the breakup? Could one or both performers have caused this death? We have, after all, seen Vince viciously beat a man.

Karen goes back and forth between the retired entertainers for interviews, finally falling into bed with Lanny. Vince agrees to answer her every question as part of his deal for a million bucks. But, as willing as the guys claim to be to help her understand what happened, it isn't until she receives a manuscript from a mysterious source that presumed truth begins to reveal itself as a fabrication of bad assumptions and lies -- and more truth than anyone can be comfortable with.

Would that writer-director Atom Egoyan had adapted Rupert Holmes novel in chronological order, periods of confusion that obscured the drama might have been avoided. But the flashback technique does serve the purposes of an evolving investigation and builds the noirish quality of the mystery. Each dip into the past strips away concealed layers, explaining the characters, bringing us closer to the career-ending turning point for the men.

Kevin Bacon and Colin Firth, always fine, have not turned in more serious and tense performances than these complex figures whose public image crumbles under the weight of dire reality and self discovery. Lohman's exquisite beauty is a given, but what we see here is intense concentration, a quality that mesmerized me. There isn't a moment on screen that you don't perceive the continuous working of her mind and her intensity of listening when another characters talks. Her attention makes every word spoken passionately important. Actors talk of "being in the moment." Lohman's performance is the epitome of it.

The same could be said for the score by composer Mychael Danna. Not only did the soundtrack provide essential character to the piece with a virtual coercion of mystery, but the sheer mood of it nailed me to my seat through the entire end credits. Another source of admiration is Paul Sarossy's enhancing cinematography.

The resolution of the tale brought "The Usual Suspects" to mind. Of course, I can't tell you why, but go and see if you make the same association as I did.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  


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Kevin Bacon and Allison Lohman as Lanny Morris and Karen O'Connor
Is the attraction mutual?
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