Monday, March 30, 2009

Lies He Told (Lifetime, 1997)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2009 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved

Lies He Told — the DVD cover depicted on the Web site gives the title as The Lies He Told, but both the film itself and the entry on it omit the definite article — is a pretty wild story (an opening disclaimer says it’s fictionalized but based on a true incident) dealing with Dave Bay (Gary Cole, top-billed), who picks up Alyson (Karen Sillas) at a Hallowe’en party at a bar and gets her to fall in love with him by claiming he’s part of a secret military unit with the U.S. government and he’s not allowed to tell her exactly what he does or where he does it. (I couldn’t help thinking of the old joke — “Well, I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.”)

The part about the military is correct — he’s a member of an elite Air Force unit (they wear red berets instead of the famous green ones of the Army Special Forces) and he had personally been decorated by the President and the British prime minister — but just about everything else he tells Alyson about himself and his background is a lie. He says “Bay” is the name of his foster parents, who took him in after his real parents died (in fact “Bay” is his birth name and his mom, at least, is still alive and appears later in the story as an on-screen character) and that he’s never married because he has to be ready to go anywhere in the world on secret missions at a moment’s notice and he doesn’t want to leave a wife back home and have to worry about his future.

In fact, he’s already married to Cindy (Teddi Sindall), has two kids by her, and has been forced to ask his C.O. not to assign him any more overseas missions because when he went on them she worried about him. He proposes to Alyson without bothering to tell her he has a wife already, and it turns out the proposal is part of a sinister plot he’s worked out to fake his own death (he crashes his bicycle into a bridge and makes it look like he drowned in the creek below), assume a new identity as “Dave Haywood” (he tells Alyson that “Haywood” is his true birth name), and essentially mooch off her family (both her dad and her brother loan him money) while pretending to make a living buying fixer-upper houses and “flipping” them. (This was made in 1997, when the housing market still moved in normal up-and-down cycles instead of the big boom followed by the even bigger bust, and the cycles are part of the story.) He also keeps stringing her along, saying that he’s quit the service but is expecting a major amount of money in back pay with which he’ll pay off his debts to her relatives and their other creditors. In fact, he plans to use his military expertise to rob banks, which leaves him the problem of explaining to her why he’s being paid in cash and why the cash is wet (his escape route on his first bank job took him across a creek so he could lose the security dogs who were chasing him), and later on why he comes home with a bag full of Mexican gold pesos.

Lies He Told is one of those Lifetime movies where it’s hard to muster much sympathy for the heroine because she’s so stupid — he keeps telling her more and more outrageous lies and she keeps buying them all — and even the final confrontation is disappointing; instead of the suicidal shoot-out we’ve been expecting all movie he allows his former military colleagues to take him alive, and a closing credit announces that he was tried in a court-martial and sentenced to four to six years. (That was something of a surprise since I would have expected the civilian authorities to have jurisdiction.) Indeed, this one was a virtual compendium of everything silly and wrong about Lifetime movies, though at least we got lots of hot shots of Gary Cole with nothing on above the waist (as well as a few nice glimpses of his jeans-clad basket, notably an especially hot one as he walks away from the bike accident he faked to make himself seem dead), and that gave this one an aesthetic appeal if nothing else.