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The Good Lie: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD Review

The Good Lie (2014) movie poster The Good Lie

Theatrical Release: October 3, 2014 / Running Time: 110 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Philippe Falardeau / Writer: Margaret Nagle

Cast: Reese Witherspoon (Carrie Davis), Arnold Oceng (Mamere Deng), Ger Duany (Jeremiah Deng), Emmanuel Jal (Paul Deng), Corey Stoll (Jack Forrester), Kuoth Wiel (Abital Deng), Femi Oguns (Theo), Sarah Baker (Pamela Lowi), Lindsey Garrett (Jenny), Peterdeng Mongok (Young Mamere), Okwar Jale (Young Theo), Thon Kueth (Young Jeremiah), Deng Ajuet (Young Paul), Keji Jale (Young Abital), David Madingi (Young Gabriel), Kon Akoue Auok (Young Daniel), Sibusisu Moyo (Young Simon), Victor McCay (Dan Reed)

Buy The Good Lie from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD • Instant Video

2014 has been quite the comeback year for Reese Witherspoon. The winner of 2005's Best Actress Oscar for Walk the Line somewhat disappeared in the aftermath of that accolade as she raised two young children in the midst of a celebrity divorce. The next time she earned big headlines was not for a movie (even though Four Christmases and the animated Monsters vs. Aliens both fared well at the box office),
but for an embarrassing arrest for disorderly conduct in conjunction with her second husband's DUI charge. A week later, Witherspoon could be seen in Mud, one of 2013's best-reviewed and just plain best movies.

That proved to be simply the warm-up act for Witherspoon's banner 2014. She may not have filled the title role, but Witherspoon did produce David Fincher's acclaimed adult blockbuster Gone Girl. A Best Picture nomination for that could be her ticket to the Oscars, but Witherspoon won't need that because she's one of a few practically guaranteed to be nominated in one of the acting categories. Her performance in Wild, another drama she produced, is almost a shoo-in to return her to the Lead Actress category she won nearly a decade ago. In addition to that 1-2 combo, Witherspoon also appears briefly in Paul Thomas Anderson's offbeat mystery Inherent Vice and she also acted in two other films given limited release this year.

The less limited, The Good Lie, played in 461 theaters starting in early October. In a less productive year, people might have lingered on the fact that this film was the one Witherspoon was shooting when she was arrested in Atlanta. But that feels like trivial ancient history at a time when Good Lie is only the fourth most talked-about Witherspoon project currently in circulation.

In "The Good Lie", Sudanese refugees Mamere (Arnold Oceng), Jeremiah (Ger Duany), and Paul (Emmanuel Jal) learn the value of a fake smile on potential employees.

Though Good Lie is marketed on Witherspoon's name and image, the actress actually assumes a supporting role. The film tells the story of young refugees from Sudan caught in the middle of a civil war over religion and resources in the late 1980s. Our focal group of orphaned youths narrowly escapes death and survives by scaring wild predators off slain antelope and drinking their own urine. The group initially walks east towards Ethiopia, then heads south to Kenya after being informed of its Kakuma Refugee Camp. There, the kids get food and clothing from a US relief program, but their dreams of safely moving on are put on hold. Thirteen years pass (quickly for us) before our four central survivors finally see their names on a list of refugees bound for America.

In the spring of 2001, the three men and one young woman are all assigned to Kansas City, but at the airport, the girl, Abital (Kuoth Wiel), is redirected to Boston, the only place a suitable host family for her could be found. The other three men -- her biological brother Mamere (Arnold Oceng), Jeremiah (Ger Duany), and Paul (Emmanuel Jal) -- are picked up at the airport by Carrie Davis (Witherspoon), a messy single gal who is reluctantly pulled away from one of her one-day stands.

The United States is full of new experiences for the refugees, who discover escalators, eating utensils, light switches, telephones, and pizza. Carrie gets them settled into their new home and helps them try to find work, which based on their qualifications isn't easy. The men adjust to their surroundings. Working a faucet assembly line, fast, handy Paul is encouraged by his co-workers to slow down and mellow out with marijuana. Stockboy Jeremiah disagrees with his grocery store's policy of throwing away expired food. Paul holds on to his dream of becoming a doctor.

All of the guys miss Abital and remain haunted to some degree by their traumatic childhood experiences, which play out in the occasional flashback.

Growing up in Sudan means lots of walking and little food for our protagonists. Carrie Davis (Reese Witherspoon) isn't on time or in good mood picking up the Lost Boys from the airport.

The Good Lie is feel-good cinema, something you don't expect from a movie that starts with starving, freshly-orphaned children walking nearly 1,000 dangerous miles to find safety. Rather than dwell on that brutal upbringing, the movie celebrates these refugees' opportunity for a new life in America. Played by two real "Lost Boys",
the name given to Sudanese refugees welcomed to America at the start of the century, the refugees' good nature and convincing naivetι endear them to us. From childhood, they are established as good people, who don't think twice before helping someone in need. They cling to their Christian values (literally toting a Bible along with them) and maintain upbeat outlooks on life, despite the terrible things they've seen.

The wholesome refugees even bring out the best in Carrie, someone who until now had just been viewing her employment agency work as a job that had to be done. Their positivity, mixed with some research on their background, inspires Carrie to go above and beyond.

There is no telling this story without painting the white Christians associated with the faith-based charities involved in a positive light. That design can be off-putting if handled poorly, as it was in The Blind Side, one of the worst Oscar-winning movies of recent years and an enormous commercial hit that flourished on churchgoer word-of-mouth. Fortunately, The Good Lie opts to not focus on and celebrate these Caucasian do-gooders, but the Africans who persevere in the face of extraordinary adversity.

The film does not really play out to your expectations, spending 25 minutes with the kids in Africa, jumping ahead 13 years, and then spending the remaining 80 minutes or so in America. For such a serious starting place, the movie becomes rather light and diverting, which is fine. The 2014 movie it most resembles is Million Dollar Arm, about impoverished Indian cricketers who an American sports agent tries to turn into Major League Baseball pitchers. Even that Disney film, based on specific true story, gets more dramatic and deferential to conflict-driven plotting. This one remains kind of casual, having a few problems to resolve but not placing them above a grounded depiction of the refugees' culture shock.

French-Canadian director Philippe Falardeau and theatrical debut-making American screenwriter Margaret Nagle (creator of the short-lived TV series "Red Band Society" and "Side Order of Life" and a two-episode "Boardwalk Empire" scribe) gladly resist any urge to turn this into Oscar bait. They probably could have with ease by playing up certain elements, but that film would not be as enjoyable agreeable as this one is.

Less than three months after beginning its theatrical run, The Good Lie arrives in stores today, available from Warner Home Video exclusively in a Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack.

The Good Lie: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

1.78:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: 5.1 DTS-HD MA (English); DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Both: Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: December 23, 2014
Suggested Retail Price: $35.99
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (BD-50 & DVD-9)
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available on Amazon Instant Video


The Good Lie sports excellent picture and sound on Blu-ray. The 1.78:1 picture is sharp and vibrant, finding the beauty in both the African wild and the Atlanta suburbs standing in for Kansas City. The beautiful visuals are complemented by a lively 5.1 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack. Early on, it features some potent helicopter and gunfire effects plus nature sounds. While they subside, the dialogue and music that drive the rest of the film are always crisp and nicely rendered. Some Sudanese Arabic text is translated by burned-in subtitle, as too are a few lines of English dialogue delivered with heavy accent. In short, the breathtaking picture and stellar sound certainly enhance your viewing experience.

Producer Ron Howard explains the film's appeal to him in "The Good Lie Journey." Mamere (Arnold Oceng) wows a doctor with his medical knowledge in this deleted scene.


The Good Lie is joined by two HD bonus features on Blu-ray,

one of which also makes it to the DVD (which is unusually not available on its own).

Making-of featurette "The Good Lie Journey" (16:19) gathers thoughts on the film from many of the crew and cast. The remarks are complemented by good behind-the-scenes footage and casting tapes. They talk about casting unknowns and shooting in Africa.

Included on both discs is a reel of 15 deleted scenes (15:06). One scene takes places during the group's childhood, but most of the others are set in America. They cover a lot of ground, and elaborate considerably on Mamere's doctor ambitions and expertise.

The Blu-ray opens with trailers for Dolphin Tale 2, and Hillsong: Let Hope Rise plus a PSA for UNICEF's The Good Lie fund. The DVD includes all those as well as trailers for The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Island of Lemurs: Madagascar,

Typical for Warner, the menus simply attach a finitely looped score excerpt over reformatted static poster/cover artwork. The Blu-ray doesn't support bookmarks, but does resume unfinished playback like a DVD.

Topped by a plain slipcover, the silver Blu-ray and black DVD share an eco-friendly keepcase with a single-sided insert supplying your Digital HD with UltraViolet code and instructions.

Paul (Emmanuel Jal) and Mamere (Arnold Oceng) make peace after a disagreement.


Not the heavy drama you might fear, The Good Lie tells its moving, loosely true story in a palatable fashion. Its mostly easygoing culture shock content may be somewhat ordinary in quality, but it remains compelling, appealing, and moderately uplifting throughout, succeeding largely on the charms of novice actors. Warner's combo pack serves up excellent picture and sound plus a couple of good extras. It is certainly worth a look and adds another strong piece of evidence to Reese Witherspoon's renaissance year.

Buy The Good Lie from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD / Instant Video

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Related Reviews:
Reese Witherspoon: Devil's Knot • Sweet Home Alabama • Four Christmases • This Means War • A Far Off Place
Corey Stoll: This Is Where I Leave You • Midnight in Paris • Salt
New: 1,000 Times Good Night • The Hundred-Foot Journey • Magic in the Moonlight
Million Dollar Arm • War Witch • Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom • Invictus • Magic Journey to Africa

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Reviewed December 23, 2014.

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