The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


The Good Lie
Own The Good Lie on Blu-ray Combo Pack and Digital HD on December 23rd

There's a little lie in The Good Lie, and that's the suggestion that it's a Reese Witherspoon movie. The film, which hits DVD and Blu-Ray on December 23, does indeed feature the actress, but she's really more of a supporting player, despite being prominently featured in all the advertising (and on the box). Of course, the film's title comes from a passage in Huckleberry Finn suggesting that sometimes little lies can bring important positive results. That's certainly the case here, as The Good Lie tells a story that might otherwise be a hard sell without the appeal of a popular actress.

This is the story of four Sudanese children left orphaned after their village is destroyed during civil unrest in their country. Early scenes show us how this happened. The film then moves ahead to when they are young adults. Mamere (Arnold Oceng), Jeremiah, (Ger Duany), Paul (Emmanuel Jal), and Abital (Kuoth Weil) are relocated to the United States as part of a resettlement program. Unfortunately, for complicated bureaucratic reasons, Abital – the lone female - cannot stay with the others. She ends up in Boston, the men in Kansas City. Witherspoon plays Carrie Davis, a slightly frazzled employment counselor charged with helping them find jobs, only to become more involved in their lives than she expected.

The Good Lie is inspired by the actual “Lost Boys of Sudan,” and scenes showing what they went through are heartbreaking. Abruptly left without elders, many of them marched nearly a thousand miles through the African desert, looking for someplace safe to go. A lot of them were forced to become child soldiers. Later, the luckiest came to the States, where they had to adjust to a brand new culture. One especially thought-provoking scene in the film finds them getting prepared for their new country by learning what ice is. Later, Jeremiah gets a job in a grocery store, only to be appalled and perplexed by the fact that old food is tossed into a dumpster when new, fresher food comes in.

The movie is a really fascinating look at what happened to many Sudanese refugees, but also at how people who come from underprivileged parts of the world experience the United States. Things we take for granted feel momentous to them. There's additionally a touching heart at the center of the story, as Mamere, Jeremiah, and Paul struggle to find a way to reunite with Abital. It's also worth noting that The Good Lie is the opposite of pictures like The Blind Side that offensively suggest impoverished African-Americans are lucky to have noble white people looking out for them. Carrie isn't always that noble – she's got personal issues out her ears – and there's not much she can do for the men other than be supportive. They're smart enough to figure things out on their own, which they most certainly do.

The Good Lie, despite these qualities, doesn't go deep enough. There's an over-reliance on simplistic fish-out-of-water scenarios; the characters don't know how to answer a telephone and are spellbound by a trip to McDonalds. And the movie avoids addressing what must have been occasionally crippling post-traumatic issues related to the horrors Sudanese children faced, even into adulthood. These characters adjust to everything pretty easily, which means that while The Good Lie gives you a case of the shiny-happies, it doesn't make the profound impact it probably should.

Nonetheless, Witherspoon is quite good, as are Oceng, Duany, and Jal, all of whom are – or are related to – Sudanese refugees. The Good Lie is well worth seeing for their performances, as well as the important issues touched upon, even if they aren't addressed as fully as they could have been. The film gets enough right to warrant attention.

( out of four)

Blu-Ray Features:

The Good Lie arrives on Blu-Ray combo pack, DVD, and digital HD on December 23.

Bonus features are fairly minimal. “The Good Lie Journey” is a 16-minute segment on the film and the true story behind it. Key cast and crew members offer up some perspective on the production. There are also fifteen minutes of deleted scenes that flesh out the characters, particularly Mamere, a little bit.

Picture and sound quality on the Blu-Ray are superb. An UltraViolet copy of The Good Lie is also included in the pack.

The Good Lie is rated PG-13 for thematic elements, some violence, brief strong language and drug use. The running time is 1 hour and 50 minutes.

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