- Movie Rating -

Why Would I Lie? (1980)

| August 8, 1980

I genuinely hate this movie.
I hate its premise.
I hate its characters.
I hate its presumptions.
I hate it illogical nonsense.
I hate movies like this.

Why Would I Lie? Is a movie that gets under your skin, like a bad rash.  It zeroes in on a guy who is fundamentally a rotten human being who is presented by the movie as a good guy living in a world of complete brainless buffoons who fall for every kind of lie and manipulation that he can muster.

Treat Williams plays Cletus, a grown adult whose main focus is that he is a compulsive liar.  His reasoning, I think, is that people don’t want to hear to truth.  He doesn’t call them lies, merely fabrications.  He approaches this crippling character flaw as if it were a virtue, as if he were operating on the notion of ‘print the legend’ and making it some kind of nobility of action.  In reality, it’s really kind of irritating, particularly approaching it the way that he does.  Whenever Cletus is about to get caught in the tangled web of lies, he just softly responds with “Why would I Lie about Something Like That?”

Okay . . . so.  Let’s start right there.  Even before we delve into the story this basic, bedrock idea is a problem.  Right away we know that this character is a horrible human being who, even if we buy the idea that his lies are done with good intensions, we know we’re being manipulated.  It’s based on a serious personality flaw that could only work of the person learned a lesson in the end and strived to do better.  That’s too much to ask for this movie.  At any rate . . .

Cletus gets a job at a welfare office where he meets a little boy named Jeorge (Gabriel Macht) and tries to help him find his mother.  Unfortunately, the mother cannot be located and so he has to lie to the kid which weaves a complicated nest of further lies to keep the kid from learning the truth.  Again, he keeps leaning on his catchphrase, which is suppose to tell us that he is protecting the kid’s feelings but we know that he’s just being jerked around.

Speaking of being jerked around, this is one of those movies that only works if every single character is a complete moron.  The way that Cletus gets the job at the welfare office is so stupid it’s not only an insult to the audience but a massive insult to women.  The administrator of the office Mrs. Bok (Valerie Curtain) knows that Cletus is not telling the truth, she threatens to call the cops, but then Cletus uses his manipulation to try and romance her . . . and it works!  Again, in order for this to work, Mrs. Bok has to be so completely out of touch with reality.  Then you have to wonder, if she’s so gullible, how di she ever got to be the administer of this office in the first place?  That kind of basic fool logic floats right on the surface at every turn.

So too does the identity of the mother, which is handled so poorly that the audience is an hour ahead of the movie, which jumps through so many hoops to manipulate the characters into not learning their true identities.  Cletus tries tracking down the mother whose last name is Kalinski.  He meets a young woman named Kay Lindsay, but she claims that she doesn’t know a Kalinski.  They become romantically involved at a speed that boggles the mind and she meets young Jeorge.  Important to note is that the mother named the kid with a ‘J’ so that she could easily find him again.  The problem is that Cletus introduces him as “Hank” so Kay doesn’t realize that this is her son.

I’m not sure exactly what emotional level this deception is going for, but you’re asking yourself why the kid never tells the woman that his name isn’t Hank, or why Cletus ever went looking for a woman named Kalinki.  There are so many questions literally floating the air that you become frustrated by the whole mess.  Such as, why am I wasting time writing any further commentary about . . .

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1980) View IMDB Filed in: Uncategorized