Near the start of The Four-Faced Liar, uptight Greg remarks disappointedly that New York, his new home, doesn’t look like it does in
the movies. This is true of the film as a whole: of all the familiar landmarks, we see only the Empire State Building, partially obscured by apartment blocks, once. But it isn’t just big-screen visual expectations that are treated with refreshing disregard in this intelligent, sexy and witty snapshot of messy relationships, sexual awakening and life in the making.
Greg (Daniel Carlisle) has come to the Big Apple to live with strait-laced girlfriend, Molly (Emily Peck). On their first night together they go for a drink in The Four-Faced Liar (a bar named after a clock in Ireland with four faces, none of which tells the right time), where they meet libido-led Trip (Todd Kubrak), his girlfriend and his best friend, Bridget (Marja-Lewis Ryan, on writing as well as acting duty here), a lesbian with a roving eye and a good line in spiky retorts. While the men connect over sports, Molly and Bridget discover that they have a shared passion for Emily Brontë, particularlyWuthering Heights. As their friendship turns into mutual attraction, the wife-to-be Molly begins to wonder if Bridget is the Heathcliff she didn’t know she was waiting for.
The cast of The Four-Faced Liar acquit themselves well, eliciting sympathy from the audience for characters that essentially spend most of their time cheating on each other. As sexy loafer Trip, Kubrak is breezily charismatic. His childlike impulsiveness is endearing but never obscures the shallow misogyny of a man whose only justification for sleeping with someone else is that he thought he’d have more time before his girlfriend got home. He and Ryan bring to life the affectionately insult-filled relationship of their characters with easy chemistry, giving small gestures such as Trip’s refusal to share his toothpaste with Bridget after discovering her affair with Molly real impact.
Ryan, meanwhile, succeeds in showing Bridget’s vulnerability without sacrificing her bravado and swagger for tedious hand-wringing or navel-gazing. She and Peck are believably raw in their scenes together, combining lust, awkwardness and uncertainty in a way that hits all the right notes. It’s only Greg who is given short shrift. The least well developed of the four, he never progresses much beyond being a buttoned-up homophobe and borderline sociopath. As a consequence, it’s hard to understand why Molly is so conflicted about leaving him for Bridget.
But undecided she is – and this is what makes The Four-Faced Liar so good. It doesn’t end with the definitive clunk of storylines being wrapped up; instead we are left with a sense of new directions being taken rather than destinations reached. This is reflected in the film’s gorgeous cinematography, which moves between vivid hues and bleak blues and greys as relationships fracture and heal again, and the central motif of a car indicator flashing, as if asking impatiently: where to next?
Superficially, The Four-Faced Liar’s story of a group of attractive twenty-somethings firing zingy one-liners at each other while grappling with love and sex in the big city has much in common with mainstream romantic comedies and TV series that take New York as their setting, such as How I Met Your Mother. However, thanks to Jacob Chase’s smart direction, Ryan’s sassy and perceptive screenplay and some excellent performances, The Four-Faced Liarsparkles with a multi-faceted brilliance quite distinct from the polished sheen of its major-studio cousins. Well worth seeking out.
Buy The Four-Faced Liar from Amazon UK
First published by So So Gay Magazine