A film noir murder mystery involving a Martin & Lewis type comedy team, March 1, 2006
There is a problem with "Where the Truth Lies" that you might not be able to get past, namely the selling point of the story in Hollywood terms. This would be that a dead woman is found naked in the bathtub of a suite about to be occupied by the comedy team of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, and the question is whether it was one, the other, or both that killed her. The names of the comedy team in this 2005 film noir are Vince Collins (Colin Firth) and Lanny Morris (Kevin Bacon), but if you do not see the parallels between Collins & Morris and Martin & Lewis before they are hosting a telethon for polio, then you are simply too young to remember Martin & Lewis.
Now, the real hook of this film noir is not that the leads are modeled on Martin & Lewis, but that Collins & Morris both have air tight alibis for the murder. They spent 39 hours doing their telethon in Miami and as soon as it was over were escorted to the airport, flown to New York City, and driven to Atlantic City where the body was discovered. The only thing is that the dead girl worked at the hotel in Miami, and had wanted to interview the two stars for her school paper. The official story smells, and whatever the truth might be it cannot be good. Soon after the telethon and the discovery of the dead girl, Collins & Morris broke up. There has to be a connection, although clearly it is under so many layers (for one thing, the naked body in the bathtub is completely submerged with its eyes opened, which not only looks freaky, but think about how something like that could actually happen)..
Fifteen years later Karen O'Connor (Alison Lohman), another young reporter, has wrangled a book deal for Collins, with the understanding that he will have to talk about Morris and the death of Maureen O'Flaherty (Rachel Blanchard, putting her "7th Heaven" days well behind her). O'Connor has just met Morris on a Pan Am flight (nice use of the way they served meals on flights back then to advance the story) as a one-night-stand. However, she actually knows them from way back: she was one of the children with polio on the fatal telethon. These men have always been heroes to her, and we do get to see them during their glory days in flashbacks, but the more she learns the harder it looks like they are going to fall.
Director Atomy Egoyn ("The Sweet Hereafter"), who did the screenplay from the novel by Rupert Holmes, does not give you enough clues to figure out whodunit in this somewhat different film noir. This is a mystery where you are along for the ride, because keeping up with the twists and turns in this one is just going to give you a headache. How this is different from most film noirs is that the sleuth is not Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe, but a young woman who is in way over her head Additionally, Karen is doing this not for herself or for the dead Maureen, and she is not doing it for the truth. She is doing it for Maureen's mother, who has been told her daughter committed suicide and has had to deal with her husband going insane. All of this underscores that O'Connor is not a professional, let alone a seasoned one, which explains some of her youthful mistakes (as a general rule, reporters do not take drugs with their subjects), but she also has the tenacity to find the truth and the youthful idealism to know what to do when she finds it.