The Four-Faced Liar
by Jef Burnham
Now available on DVD from Wolfe Video.
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Wolfe Video presents The Four-Faced Liar, the first-time effort of director Jacob Chase that has created a deal of buzz on the festival circuit for its honesty and emotionality. Written for the screen by Marja Lewis Ryan (who also stars) and based on her play, this “comedy about drama” tells the story of Molly and Bridget, two women whose relationship is complicated by Bridget’s inability to commit and Molly’s previous commitment to her live-in boyfriend, Greg.
Although The Four-Faced Liar promises in its opening moments to be your typical “boisterous, mannish, brunette lesbian seduces the straight, prudish, effeminate blonde, and teaches her the ways of lesbianism” scenario, the film takes a surprising turn when Molly turns out to be the one instigating the relationship. Besides Molly’s relationship with Greg, further complications arise when Bridget’s roommate Trip discovers their affair. Having become a close friend of Greg, Trip, perhaps needless to say, disapproves of his roommate’s burgeoning relationship with his friend’s girlfriend— a relationship he determines to thwart seemingly out of bitterness at his recent break-up with long-time girlfriend, Chloe. If it all sounds a little confusing, such is the nature of the dramatis personae in The Four-Faced Liar, who lie to themselves even more than they lie to one another. However, although the characters’ relationships may be best diagrammed as a web, it is a web woven slowly, allowing the relationships to develop naturally and mostly subtextually.
With Wuthering Heights as the backbone of inspiration for the love triangle in The Four-Faced Liar, it is perhaps unsurprising that the film becomes exceedingly melodramatic in the closing act. Many of the problems that arise between Molly and Bridget at the one hour mark feel forced in their dramaturgy, especially considering it was Molly who instigated the relationship in the first place. However, I suppose some theatricality is to be expected from a movie based on a play.
The cast is solid overall, but particular attention must be drawn to Marja Lewis Ryan’s performance as Bridget. Ryan’s character evolves so much throughout the film that we hardly recognize her by film’s end. At first, Bridget is gruff, chain-smoking and womanizing, but once we, along with Molly, warm up to her, a certain, unexpected vulnerability emerges. That she never turns her womanizing ways toward Molly adds enormous believability to their romance, and this seeming disinterest in Molly ultimately fascinates her.
Despite some clunky melodrama, awkward cinematography, and a conclusion curiously derivative of a certain 1967 Mike Nichols film, The Four-Faced Liar is an enjoyable view— nicely paced, with a nice soundtrack, and well acted. Special features on the DVD release include director’s commentary, a featurette, deleted scenes, and a trailer.
Jef Burnham is a writer and educator living in Chicago, Illinois. While waging war on mankind from a glass booth in the parking lot of a grocery store, Jef managed to earn a degree in Film & Video from Columbia College Chicago, and is now the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com.
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