How far would you go to get attention and what would you do when you finally attained it? White Lie answers the question for one woman, and the journey isn’t a pleasant one.
Welcome to Katie Arneson’s world. Chemo. Baldness. Endless trips to the doctor’s office, buffered by a well of sympathetic friends. Who wouldn’t support her? The girl’s got cancer! Except she doesn’t. Instead Katie is living an elaborate lie. And to Katie the one thing that’s scarier than being (faux) sick is the constant threat of getting found out. Because who is she if she isn’t the girl everyone should care for? Not even she knows.
White Lie is a well-acted film, albeit an uncomfortable one. It’s hard to watch, given that the viewer knows Katie’s secret. Needless to say, it’s difficult to see the action unfold on all of her unsuspecting friends. Kacey Rohl does an excellent job portraying Katie. She carries the bulk of the screen time – in fact the moments in which we’re away from her are rare, almost to a suffocating extent. (The character, that is; not the actress!) And a big wow to the casting director for nabbing Martin Donovan as Katie’s father. It’s always a pleasure to see the Hal Hartley staple in any film, and he’s predictably stellar here. Amber Anderson as Jennifer, Katie’s gorgeous, naïve girlfriend, is also a great talent.
The narrative is compelling, echoing today’s pressure cooker society to stand out on social media and beyond. How do average people excel? How does the normal person attain much-desired validation? Likes, heart emojis, thumbs-up and successful GoFundMe campaigns certainly deliver virtual pats on the head. Here, we find a woman willing to go there, and then some, in a horrifically misguided attempt to feel good while behaving bad.
The pacing is moody and taut. I found myself catching my breath with Katie as she scrambled to hold onto her quickly toppling house of cards. It was amazing to watch someone so desperately cling to a falsehood so realistically that they almost believe the story themselves. The intricacies of her illness are clearly mental, but they’re so painful that she wishes they were physical. That said, the lie is so atrocious it’s challenging to connect with, or root for, the lead character. Ultimately, I was left asking, “What was it all for?” The movie provides a lean runtime, mixed with lots of sadness and little resolution. Much like her illness, it’s a pale imitation of satisfaction.
While you’ll appreciate the level of skill, White Lie isn’t a movie many will want to spend time with. There’s a lot of buildup, but not enough payoff.
Nuggets – more film thoughts:
Though this is not based on a true story, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Brooks Ayers insane Real Housewives of Orange County storyline – for this is a man who really did fake medical records and have pretend-cancer! Freaking wild. Also, in my opinion, Vicki TOTALLY KNEW. Please, no one bring that bitch a casserole.