For creators, impostor syndrome can be a hefty obstacle to overcome. It’s difficult to take credit for the work you’ve done, especially when the work is received extremely well. A Little White Lie holds a satirical mirror up to the crippling condition of impostor syndrome, and what lengths people will go to shy away from their successes.
When a lonely handyman who happens to share the same name as a famous reclusive author gets invited to a literature festival as the guest of honor, Shriver (Michael Shannon) decides to attend. With nothing to lose, Shriver throws himself into the role of the acclaimed author. But how long can he keep the charade up? And when the police begin to investigate him in connection to a murder case, the heat is on as Shriver wrestles with his own impostor syndrome while trying to find love and respect among the people he looks up to. The film adapts the 2013 novel, Shriver, by Chris Belden, and while watching the movie, you can feel that this was adapted from a book. This movie feels like a book come to life; the story plays out in such a wonderfully twisty way that it captures the joy of reading a good book.
A Wonderful Cast of Characters
The cast is a wonderful array of big stars and lower profile performers. Like great books, you gotta have a wealth of great characters. With a film that focuses so much on character work, the cast has to do a lot of the heavy lifting with this movie.
The film has the incredible Michael Shannon as the lead, who brings such a fun energy to this fish-out-of-water comedy. Watching Shannon struggle to appear as a literary genius while also fighting his inner demons is such a stark and hilarious juxtaposition. Then we have the wonderful Kate Hudson as Professor Cleary, the struggling author who has helped put on this literature festival. Hudson is just a delight in every role she plays and this movie is no exception. While the romantic chemistry between the Shriver and Cleary feels a bit forced, the two actors have such fun chemistry together that you can’t help but smile through every scene they share together.
How can you talk about the cast without mentioning the hilarious and wonderfully talented Da’Vine Joy Randolph? After nearly stealing the show in Dolemite Is My Name and now appearing as Detective Williams on Only Murders in the Building, Randolph adds some much appreciated levity and fun to some of the more somber scenes of the film. Playing a super fan of Shriver, Randolph tags along with Shriver and always keep him on edge since he’s worried he will be found out.
The So-So Elements
There are so many phenomenal actors in this one, but one of the film’s leads feels a bit out of place. That would be the great Don Johnson as T. Wasserman. Unfortunately, his character feels extremely underdeveloped, appearing scene to scene without doing much of consequence. Later on in the film we learn the big backstory to the poet, but this never really comes into play at any point. Wasserman is the film’s wild card with him riding a horse across the college campus, and wanting to party with some college kids (ew), and randomly quoting poetry just to get a few words in on a conversation he’s not really a part of. The inclusion of Johnson’s role leaves you wondering if perhaps Wasserman was a much more prominent character in the Shriver novel.
The editing of the film is sometimes just as strange as Wasserman. There were weird cuts and jumps in footage that I had to double check my streaming connection to make sure it wasn’t my Wi-Fi acting up. While the jumps are jarring, they are luckily few and far between without making the film difficult to watch. The strange editing seems implemented to try and get us into the clouded and racing mind of Shannon’s Shriver, but since the cuts are rarely used, they just come off as weird production errors.
Overall, this movie is just pure fun. The twists and turns of this narrative really do conjure the joy of reading a good book. It’s a strange power that makes this movie so great. When you start a new book, you may start with a moderate amount of interest, and as the plot picks up, so does the pace of how quickly you turn that page until you’re barreling towards that conclusion. Director Michael Maren has a gift that is too rare in cinema, which is to bring literature to life in an absolutely fun way.
A Little White Lie is currently playing in select theaters, and it is available On Demand and on Digital platforms courtesy of Saban Films and Paramount Pictures.
An incredibly fun watch that feels akin to reading a really good book. The twists and turns will have you on the edge of your seat. Plus, a wonderfully talented and stacked cast!
Even when I was just a young kid I had always been fascinated in film and the work that goes into them. I love animation, blockbuster hits, indie films and everything in between. Some day I’ll have the privilege of being apart of the filmmaking process.