Reese Witherspoon Does a Good Deed with “The Good Lie”
By Skip Sheffield
Reese Witherspoon did a good thing when she agreed to star in and promote “The Good Lie.” The title is taken from a term in Mark Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn.”
This truth-based movie, written by Margaret Nagle and directed by Philippe Falardeau (“Monsieur Lazhar”) dramatizes the plight and flight of the “Lost Boys” from civil war-torn Sudan. We meet the “boys” (and one girl) as children. Ruthless militia invades their village, kill the adults and torch the huts.
A half-dozen children flee blindly. When a soldier spots one of them hiding in tall grass, the eldest,Theo (Okawr Jale), stands up and surrenders himself, saving the other children.
The group encounters a mass march and learns they are heading for safer territory in Kenya. After walking almost 800 miles and losing one of the boys to illness, the remaining four make it to a refugee camp. They are issued clothes and food by Red Cross volunteers. After putting their names on a waiting list, the quartet is overjoyed to learn they have been accepted in a program to take them to the USA to gain asylum. The joy is tempered by sorrow when the boys learn their sister Abital (Kuoth Wiel) cannot go with them to Kansas City because of some arbitrary immigration regulation. Abital is sent to a foster family in Boston. The boys continue to Kansas City, where they are picked up at the airport by a somewhat scatterbrained employment agency counselor, Carrie Davis, played by Reese Witherspoon. Though Witherspoon is top-billed in movie ads, she does not make her appearance until 35 minutes into the film, and her entrance is not grand. If anything dark-haired Carrie is the anti-“Legally Blond” glamour girl. Carrie wears sloppy clothes and has an even sloppier apartment. She curses, drinks beer and has temper tantrums, but at heart she is a good soul. So is her tolerant boss, Jack (Corey Stoll).
There are many comical fish-out-of water scenes when the boys encounter American technologies, customs, and attempt to be gainfully employed.
Aspiring doctor Mamere (Arnold Oceng) is the natural leader of the group and literally a Chief since his older brother Theo was seized.
Tall, lanky Jeremiah (Ger Duany) is a spiritual person and sensitive soul who learns some harsh lessons about America’s materialist ways.
Paul (Emmanuel Jai) is the more rebellious and resentful of the group, which will cause problems.
All the African characters are played by real Sudanese refugees, which adds authenticity to an otherwise fictional plot. There is a strong but unobtrusive Christian message in the story. The only book the group has is a Bible, and the people who save them are professed Christians.
If you in need of a feel-good, we-are-the-world kind of movie, this is one for you. The situation in all of Africa has only worsened since Sudan refugees were cut off after 9/11, but for the 3,600 “Lost Boys’ who made it to the USA, there are heartwarming messages at film’s end.