Review: The Whole Truth
REVIEW: The world of VOD has become an interesting side-effect of both the explosion of indie film production and the gradual death of theatrical exhibition. Some studios, like Magnolia, IFC and others, buy movies specifically for this format, with minor theatrical releases - and usually these films are good, if uncommercial. Then, there are companies like Lionsgate Premiere, whose movies always have big stars attached, and often – save for the occasional sleeper like BLOOD FATHER – have a compromised feel about them.
Right from the first frame of THE WHOLE TRUTH, it feels like something went badly awry in the editing room. With acclaimed director Courtney Hunt (FROZEN RIVER) at the helm, and Keanu Reeves starring alongside Renee Zellweger, who shot this before BRIDGET JONES’S BABY, marking her delayed return to film, you’d think it would get some kind of theatrical release or festival play. Maybe some version of the movie is out there that really works, but this muddled thriller isn’t it, with Reeves’s non-stop voice-over narration particularly intrusive and ludicrously connecting-the-dots for an audience the makers seem to think is too stupid to follow the plot themselves.
It’s a shame, because there are some good things about THE WHOLE TRUTH. Keanu Reeves does his valiant best (being a last-minute replacement for Daniel Craig), but he doesn’t come naturally to the part of a hard-bitten, morally compromised attorney. Yet, Renee Zellweger is quite good, while Gabriel Basso is excellent as the teen accused of killing his father.
At ninety minutes, the film is also quite contained and even if the plot twists are goofy, it keeps you watching throughout. As the film went on, I never considered actually scrolling ahead or turning it off, something rare for VOD titles these days. I was engaged, especially once Gugu Mbatha-Raw came in as Reeves’ second-chair, a lawyer recovering from a nervous breakdown who doesn’t quite trust her new boss. There’s also a really good supporting performance from James Belushi as the dead man. Anyone who only knows him from goofy eighties comedies like K-9 will be shocked at how well he plays Zellweger’s tyrant of a husband, evoking a fiery temper that’s quite off-putting. It’s acting like his that makes me wish THE WHOLE TRUTH was better than it is.
For about seventy percent of the running time, I figured this was like a decent “Law & Order” episode stretched out to feature-length, elevated by the high production values, such as the 2:35:1 lensing by Jules O'Loughlin. Towards the end, a twist is revealed that’s supposed to shock the audience but is so goofy, it pretty much makes the entire film fall apart, as everyone’s motivations are called into question – and none make sense. Still, Basso, Raw, Zellweger and especially Belushi make this more than your run-of-the-mill VOD rental, and not a bad choice once it hits streaming.