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The Good Lie (Blu-ray Review)

Good-LieAcademy Award winner Reese Witherspoon stars alongside Corey Stoll and the Lost Boys, a group of real-life Sudanese refugees. Together, against the backdrop of their shared losses, the Lost Boys and these unlikely strangers find humor in the clash of cultures, and heartbreak as well as hope in the challenges of life in America.  Along with Witherspoon and Stoll, the film stars real-life Sudanese refugees Arnold Oceng and newcomer Kuoth Wiel; Ger Duany and rapper Emmanuel Jal, who were both former child soldiers and Lost Boys; and Femi Oguns. Rounding out the cast are Sarah Baker as Faith Based Charities volunteer Pamela Lowi; and, as the younger Lost Boys, Peterdeng Mongok, Okwar Jale, Thon Kueth, Deng Ajuet and Keji Jale, all of whom are children of Sudanese refugees.

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Film 

Mamere and Theo are sons of the Chief in their village in Southern Sudan. When an attack by the Northern militia destroys their home and kills their parents, eldest son Theo is forced to assume the role of Chief and lead a group of young survivors, including his sister Abital, away from harm. But the hostile, treacherous terrain has other dangers in store for them. As the tattered group makes the difficult trek to Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, they meet other fleeing children, forging a bond with Jeremiah, who, at 13, is already a man of faith, and Paul, whose skills become essential to their survival.

Thirteen years later, the now young adults are given the opportunity to leave the camp and resettle in America. Upon arriving in Kansas, they are met by Carrie Davis, an employment agency counselor who has been enlisted to help find them jobs—no easy task, when things like light switches and telephones are brand new to them.  Although Carrie has successfully kept herself from any emotional entanglements, these refugees, who desperately require help navigating the 21st century and rebuilding their shattered lives, need just that. So Carrie embarks on her own unchartered territory, enlisting the help of her boss, Jack.

The Good Lie is both a bit of heart warming cheese as well as quite a bit educational at the same time.  Its filled with plenty of moments to make you feel good inside and really get on the side of rooting for the refugees.  You also learn about their crazy past and the program that brings them to America.  But, what’s really an eye opener is seeing how useful, smart and important they seem to be at the Kenyan camp, but in America their best job opportunities and qualifications appear to be factory workers, fast food employees and grocery store stockers.  I mean Mamere is taking heartbeats and learning about medicine and doctoral work in Kenya, but can’t just really “take off” in America.  Their lives take patience and time, and some of them are okay with that, and one of the brothers has trouble accepting it.  Its all makes for some good learning and conflict within the film.

I’m not sure if this is one of the those “Reesurection” films that seem to be calling for a comeback or return to prominence for the Academy Award winning actress.  She’s fine here in this movie.  I think she services both the character and the movie quite well.  There’s nothing to reach out and go “HOLY CRAP she was TERRIFIC” here, but I think her best quality in this film is one that won’t get the praise and may be little scene.  Its that she lets scenes and her fellow cast mates take front and center a be the important focus on the film.  While she’s top billed and on the poster, the importance of this story has little to do with her, even though she gets her own arc.  She plays a Michael Jordan of sorts in this film, enhancing every scene by making those around her better and not upstaging or showing them up.  And its not like she’s downplaying herself or anything, she’s strengthening the balance of the moment and making it all feel even.  Its a testament to her as a performer, moreso than giving a huge performance.  The important part of this story and what its really telling isn’t about her character.  And the screenwriter and her both know it unlike something schmaltzy of a similar kind of manner like The Blind Side.

As education and cozy “feel good” entertainment go, The Good Lie is a solid film.  Its emotional strings being pulled and big moments will work well more for some than others, but they do work.  It features some solid work from not only Witherspoon, but Corey Stoll and the newcomers playing the refugees.  You’ve seen this sort of fish out of water tale of someone coming in to live the American Dream from another country many times, but this is one of those that does work and a lot of the time feels honest.  If you happen to be perusing and find this one and are curious, you should check it out at least as a rental.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Clarity/Detail: This is a really fine looking picture.  Detail is very high.  Surface texture and clothing patterns/texture are highly defined.  The image is sharp and crisp without being overly so.  A fine looking image for a modern film as should be expected.

Depth: Some solid work done in the Kenyan scenes.  Interiors have a good sense of place and distance between person and environment.

Black Levels: Blacks are rich and varied.  No crushing noticed.  Very good with shading and defining the shapes and sharpness of objects/people.

Color Reproduction: Colors are bold and well represented.  The film takes a natural route, but many of the colors manage to press through.

Flesh Tones: Warm and consistent.  Detail is very high as you can make out every wrinkle and blemish on the faces.  Most impressive is the definition of them when they are in Kenya.

Noise/Artifacts:  Clean

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish

Dynamics:  For being a little drama, this is quite an impressive track.  The opening of the film features some really eye-opening action that really takes off in your living room.  Its quite active and loud.  The rest of the film features some good definition of a effects and a good balance of sound all around.

Low Frequency Extension:  While this movie moves to drama for its second act, the first act does have some gunshots, explosions and loud engines that get a very healthy boost from the subwoofer in impressive fashion.

Surround Sound Presentation: There is an accurate representation of sound to screen here.  Most of the rear work gets music and ambiance.  Most impressive are the Kenya scenes and their sense of atmosphere.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Loud, crisp and clean.

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Extras 

The Good Lie comes with a DVD and Digital Copy of the film.

The Good Lie Journey (HD, 16:19) – You’re basic EPK friendly interviews-driven “Making Of” featurette that has behind the scenes footage and the cast and crew talking about the subject matter of the film and producing it.

Deleted Scenes (HD, 15:06)

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Summary 

The Good Lie is a nice little “feel good” picture that both educates and pushes the right buttons to warm you.  It makes you not only feel for the refugees struggles, but manages to get you really behind them and find yourself quite happy for them in the end.  The film also has a hell of a bittersweet ending, but a good one nonetheless.  This Blu-ray gives you superb audio and video quality as well as a decent bit of extras.  I’m not sure if this is a film to rush out and buy (Aside from you Reese Witherspoon collectors out there), but its easily a solid satisfactory rental.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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