Dangerous Lies (2020)

Movie Info

General Info

Rating
Not Rated
Run Time
1 hour 30 minutes

VP Content Ratings

Violence
2 / 10
Language
1 / 10
Sex / Nudity
3 / 10
Star Rating
★★★½

Movie Review

Adam does his grad student homework while Katie works as a waitress to support them. (c) Netflix

But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.

1 Timothy 6:9-10

 

Director Michael Scott’s mystery can provide an enjoyable time away from the current turmoil, especially if you enjoyed Knives Out, though his tale revolving around a goodhearted caretaker by no means rises to that level. I see that the majority of viewers on IMDB have panned it, but I found it far more satisfying than these apparently jaded folk did.  One thing that I appreciated is that the beleaguered couple are of mixed race, and no big deal of this is made by anyone. If Katie and Adam ever faced a “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” moment, they have weathered it well. For me the film works as a visual parable of the nature of temptation and just enough greed to lead to the dangerous lies of the title.

Katie and Adam (Camila Mendes and Jessie T. Usher, respectively) are very much in love, but at the moment their financial difficulties are stressing them both. Katie did work as a waitress while husband Adam was in graduate school, but that job ended with a robbery of the diner, during which a bus boy was killed, and Adam stopped the robber by hitting him with a skillet. Adam has dropped out of school, and now creditors are hounding them for repayment of his student loan. Katie loudly complains of their worsening financial condition, the income from her new caretaker job being far short of what they need—and Adam unable to land a position after several interviews.

Katie has been working for the well-off octogenarian Leonard (Elliot Gould) for just four months, but they have bonded as if it has been ten years. He lives in a suburb of Chicago in a very large and comfortable house. He has no living relatives, nor, since he never married, any offspring. She attends to the myriad of details, including the careful allocation of the multitude of pills he must take, with genuine devotion. They talk during those times when she brings a tray of food up to the attic where he likes to listen to old 78 rpm records of songs from his younger days. His kindness is seen when, discovering her inability to meet her financial obligations, he offers to help her out. Her goodness is seen in her turning him down. She does mention that Adam needs a job, and so Leonard hires him as his gardener. A wife working with her husband for the same employer is against her employment agency’s policy, but she ignores this. Leonard goes further, writing her next paycheck for $7,000, which she does not notice until she and Adam have driven up to their bank and she takes out the check and checkbook. Both are surprised at the amount but react differently. She wants to tear it up and ask Leonard for the proper amount. Adam argues that they should go ahead and accept her employer’s generosity, their need being so great. This will be the first of a series of bad decisions that he makes—and with which Katie goes along. She compromises, agreeing to deposit the check but not write any until Monday when she can talk with Leonard and write one reimbursing him.

Unfortunately, Leonard dies unexpectedly, Katie being the one who discovers him sitting in his chair. While up in the attic, Katy comes across a number of letters Leonard had exchanged with a woman. More startling is Adam’s uncovering beneath personal affects a huge pile of money in mid-ranged denominations. Adam is for keeping the cache a secret, seeing this as a windfall (which was the original name of this movie). Katie reluctantly goes along. Thus, when  Detective Chesler (Sasha Alexander) interrogates her about Leonard’s death, she makes no mention of the trunk half-full of money. Adam will later count it, the total being at least $100 K.

During an informal memorial service attended only by Katie and Adam, Julia (Jamie Chung) shows up informing Katie that she is Leonard’s lawyer and that a few days before dying he had written a will. Katie is the designated heir and the body is to be cremated. Asking if she can move into the house, Julie says Yes, and so Katie and her equally astounded husband take up residence. Julia’s warning that the sudden wealth can change a couple’s relationship warns us of what is to come.

The pair  have sneaked the cash out of the attic and placed it in a safety deposit box at their bank. They agree they will have to be careful as they navigate toward a more prosperous future. Hovering over them is the specter of a sinister Ray Gaskin (Sean Owen Roberts), claiming to be real estate agent who has at least twice rung the doorbell (once when Leonard was alive) to press his urgent case for buying the house. As the couple travel about the city and suburb, we see that this guy is following them. Also, Detective Chesler is more than surprised that Katie was the sole beneficiary of the dead man’s will, she is suspicious.

How all this plays out leads up to a violent climax that gives the movie its title. We see how the money does indeed change Adam, his yielding to temptation leading to greed and lies. Can the two trust one another anymore? And given their circumstances, can they afford not to do so? When the couple’s idyllic bubble of prosperity breaks and more facts come out, including their bank record and safety deposit box, Katie faces the scenario in which every choice she and Adam had made points to her being a schemer manipulating a vulnerable old man to name her his beneficiary and then murder him. By cremating his body, she has made it impossible to hold an autopsy that might have revealed an overdose.

Several times, as per my view of this as a parable of temptation, I thought of the film A Simple Plan (see March 1999 VP), in which the finding of a satchel of money amidst the wreckage of a crashed private plane by several ordinary citizens destroys their lives when they yield to the temptation to keep and hide. Michael Scott and writer David Golden’s visual parable is thus a cautionary tale. Listen closely to the soundtrack for the song “Temptation Got Me,” with the line that foretells what Adam will do, “Everybody looking for a new sensation/We’re the never satisfied generation…” Giving in to temptation can have dire unintended consequences!

This review will be in the October issue of VP along with a set of questions for reflection and/or discussion. If you have found reviews on this site helpful, please consider purchasing a subscription or individual issue in The Store.

 

 

 

 

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