Starring Leslie Hope. Rated 14A
To get straight to the point: vaginas.
They’re revealed and talked about in myriad ways in Lie Exposed. Melanie (Leslie Hope) is a recovering alcoholic who’s dying of an illness and is uninspired by her relationship with her husband (Bruce Greenwood), a man who should get the award for the world’s most understanding, patient partner. Acting out, she takes off to Los Angeles, hooks up with a tintype photographer (Jeff Kober, who also screenwrites), and lets him shoot arty pics of her privates. (They can’t be dirty because they’re black-and-white.)
When she returns to Toronto to be with her husband, they stage an art-gallery show of the shots. And it sends all their friends out into the night reassessing their own sex lives, the definition of pornography, and the meaning of life.
There’s not much you can fault about the acting in this ensemble piece—whether it’s Hope’s freedom-seeking older woman or Kristin Lehman’s sexually assertive party girl. And director Jerry Ciccoritti has a polished way of piecing together the story’s nonchronological fragments.
But as Melanie pontificates in a voice-over about God’s will and pubic hair, you start to wonder, “Do people really talk like this? Or dress like this—in heels and sequins and feathers? Or go to art-gallery openings like this?”
It’s hard to care about the clichéd “problems” of all the upscale people involved, with their challenges sketched lightly in screenwriter Kober’s vignettes. There’s the pair who’ve stopped having sex, or the guy who decides he’s going to try to get back together with his wife that night.
All this because of a bunch of pictures of someone’s hoohaw. A crucible that shocks everyone into change? Hard to believe in a world where we can all get a glimpse of one by a simple Google search, or hear talk about vaginas everywhere from daytime TV to entire theatre monologues to South Park.
And am I the only one who finds the tired idea of the grizzled male photographer coaxing women to doff their clothes a bit creepy—made more so here by Kober’s near silence? Lie Exposed feels behind on 21st-century art theory, on ideas about the male gaze, and who holds the power. (“I was able to let him be in control,” Melanie recalls wistfully; cue soft-porny shots where she tentatively opens her burnout-silk robe in his windowed loft-studio.)
Lie Exposed is ambitious, but it’s never quite as shocking, raw, or life-changing as it wants to be. The overall impression, to steal from Lana Del Rey, is beautiful people with beautiful problems.