Lie Exposed is adapted from Jeff Kober’s play Pornography. That’s a better title, but I guess it would sink you on the SEO. So, this ensemble drama about viewers and subjects at the gallery opening of a vulva-focused photography project arrives as a goofy double entendre.
Here’s the show: a giant model of a plate camera sits on the stage. After the introduction, audience members peer, a few at a time, through small slits in the model’s bellows. Inside (we come to learn) are various artful shots of the vulva in repose. As art goes, this is more single entendre territory. But one of the nice surprises of Lie Exposed is that it’s not particularly precious about the art within the art—except that, for some never-justified reason, the playwright and screenwriter himself features as the unspeaking, coolly sensual photographer, in some of the film’s worst scenes.
The conceit driving Lie Exposed—the reactions that various pairs of people have to the fairly straightforward work spiral into broader questions about sexuality, sincerity, and romance between them—is a strength and a weakness. The conversations are wry and believable, but they’re believable because these cultural lines have long since been drawn. At one point Tony Nappo’s incredulous Perry, arguing with his wife, bursts out: “It’s just pictures of vaginas!” His combination of minor frustration and needling reductiveness is perfectly authentic, but it’s also a pretty familiar corner for the movie to stay in. It all feels a bit throwback Canadian, and not in a good way.
For the most part, the actors are fun to watch in a series of two-handers. Top-billed Bruce Greenwood gets the least to do, but makes the most of it and anchors the movie with his consistency. Leslie Hope, who also produced, does a fine job in her scenes, which let her play a tricky balance of withholding and vulnerability. But she’s also saddled with the narration of several montages, peppered with odd, sub-Malickian visual flourishes, that are meant to break the film up and help it feel less stagey. It doesn’t work—as the character muses portentously in a performance that sounds inescapably like ADR, you wish you were just watching her instead.
Lie Exposed isn’t quite the movie it’s aiming for, but its reach exceeds its grasp about equally in all areas. Watch it with some friends or loved ones, and it should be good for an argument or two. That’s something.