It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
You heard of a feel-good movie? This is a feel-right movie. The truths that are rooted in “The Good Lie” are exactly what set it free from the trap of being the latest example of Hollywood-generated inspirational hogwash. Not that this intimate account of how a band of Sudanese orphans survived a bloody civil war (which raged on for more than two decades starting in 1983) and managed to forge a fresh start in America years later isn’t uplifting. How could it not be?
But instead of settling for being simplistic and condescending, this moving story possesses an honesty that compensates for any of the more obvious tugs on our tear ducts, most of which arrive in the latter part of the film. The primary source of this authenticity is a cast populated with South Sudanese actors who captivate without pretense. Two of the three male leads, as well as the actress who plays their sister, were caught up in the conflict before fleeing their homeland for asylum elsewhere. One was a child soldier, the other two lost relatives in the war.
An innate understanding of what their parts entail pours forth from their very being. You can sense it in their faces, their body language, in the distinctive cadence of their speech, and in their humble though dignified stances. Even the younger versions of their characters are the offspring of the so-called “Lost Boys of Sudan.”
The trailers and poster for "The Good Lie" give the impression that Reese Witherspoon is the star and that her plucky Midwesterner is yet another cinematic incarnation of a white savior coming to the rescue of struggling black people, similar to the role that earned Sandra Bullock an Academy Award in 2009’s “The Blind Side.” But that’s just a marketing ploy that relies on its own good lie as a selling tool: promoting an Oscar-winner as bait for a drama full of unknowns.