By Don Simpson | November 21, 2011
Director: Joshua Leonard
Writers: Joshua Leonard, Mark Webber, Jess Weixler, T. Coraghessan Boyle (short story), Jeff Feuerzeig (additional material)
Starring: Joshua Leonard, Jess Weixler, Mark Webber, Jane Adams, Alia Shawkat, James Ransone, Gerry Bednob, Kirk Baltz, Allison Anders
In an effort to protect the innocent from getting hassled by The Man, I am not going to mention any names, but I will say that I have a friend who is stuck in a meaningless day job that sucks his/her essence of being every single day. This unnamed friend remains in their horrible job solely out of fiscal responsibility; they have a hefty mortgage and bills to pay, they need reliable health insurance. This particular friend does not have a family to support, but he/she recognizes how such a situation would escalate their stress by a factor of at least ten.
Sure, this friend could quit their soul-sucking job for something they would really enjoy doing, but is that really an option? American Capitalism is not about having the freedom to do what you enjoy, it is about earning enough money to keep your head above water. In order to do what you really enjoy — especially if it is anything creative — you must first give up on the so-called American dream, which means learning to remove money completely from the equation and live a life of voluntary simplicity. But being that most American’s are drowning in debt, is jumping off of the Capitalist grid a viable option nowadays?
As I mentioned early, this particular friend does not have any children; but what if they did? Is it healthier for children to grow up in a household of unhappy parents whose financial stresses are endless or in one with more limited resources but happier parents?
Okay, I will hop down from my pulpit now; but it was my initial viewing of Joshua Leonard’s The Lie that prompted that ranty digression. I cannot recall a more relevant deconstruction of the American dream than The Lie. So many of us have been in Lonnie’s (Joshua Leonard) position. Sometimes we just cannot bring ourselves to go to our day job — in Lonnie’s case he is still milling over a disagreement he had with his wife (Jess Weixler) — so we take a “mental health day”. The problem is that some people have superiors like Lonnie’s boss (Gerry Bednob) who become rabidly unhinged when their underlings call out of work. For Lonnie, his boss’ reaction is one of many factors that causes the situation to snowball. When Lonnie calls out of work on day two, he feels forced to come up with a lie that will end his boss’ fiery verbal tirade once and for all.
The entire narrative hinges upon one simple sentence, the lie that Lonnie utters, and its aftermath. For some (not me), Lonnie’s lie may instantly render his character unworthy of our sympathy, in which case The Lie will fail miserably. Leonard also counts on the audience’s understanding of Lonnie’s motivations. I am afraid that some — depending on the audience’s preconceptions of stoners and rock musicians — might perceive Lonnie as an aimless stoner who just wants to smoke marijuana and record songs with his off-the-grid best friend (Mark Webber); ignoring the fact that he is a loving father and husband, and that he really does want to be able to provide for his family.
The Lie was written and shot before the Occupy Wall Street and subsequent Occupy movements began, but it captures exactly what the 99% is all about. As a society, we [the 99%] are struggling more than we need to, all because of the financial burdens that America’s unique brand of Capitalism (otherwise known as an Oligarchy) has propagated. A significant majority of Americans are drowning in insurmountable debt. Why? Because they could not afford to pay cash for basic necessities such as education, health care and homes. Do we as a society need to continue to live like this? If not, then how the heck do we get out of this mess? Is it really as simple as tying our antlers to the top of our vehicles and just driving away from it all?