Liar Liar (1997)

One of the cool things about Dramatica is that despite being very nuanced and complex in it’s particulars, the big ideas are very intuitive.

Last night at dinner, my girlfriend was asking me about Dramatica. I was explaining the big things like throughlines, resolve, outcome and judgment. She then, unprompted, broke down the throughlines of Liar Liar, which she had just watched with her family.

Besides being awesome, it got me thinking about this movie again. I haven’t had time to rewatch it yet, but does anyone else have any general feelings or interest in taking a look at this movie?


Okay, it’s been a couple days. Not sure if the likes are for doing the analysis or pride for my girlfriend. :smile:

Either way, I’m planning to sit down and watch this over the next couple of days and I’ll report back with my general impressions. If you’re interested then feel free to do the same and we can see where it goes. :thumbsup:

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I’m more than up for this. I haven’t seen the movie in a while, so would be nice to revisit it! I’ll try and get to it over the next couple of days!

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If only this had been brought up before the end of November when it left Hulu…

I’m going to just through this guess out there. “I’m kicking my @$$!” = Do-er

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Yo! Definitely up for checking this one out.
It’s been a while since I saw it–would have to rewatch to see if I think it even has a storyform. Probably, from what I remember…

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Alright. Finished rewatching the movie, so here are my general impressions:

As expected for a Jim Carrey comedy, it’s very heavy on the physical comedy and slapstick.

Tone is very light. I don’t want to get too much into Dramatica stuff off the bat, but I wouldn’t be shocked if it was a Start story.

Throughlines seem to be where I was told they’d be. :smile:

  • OS: The Divorce Case
  • MC: Jim Carrey (Fletcher)
  • IC: Max / Ex-Wife
  • RS: Disappointing Father / Son

I would say Changed, Linear, Optionlock, Good are basically givens, but I’d be happy to discuss further if someone sees it differently.

My gut was Success for the case (they win), but the fallout with Jennifer Tilly stealing the kids from the Dad gave me pause. Maybe that’s more of a cost thing, though?

Drivers seem to be actions:

  • the original attorney quits and Fletcher gets offered the case
  • Max makes the wish so Fletcher cannot lie
  • Max tries to take the wish back but can’t
  • the discovery that Jennifer Tully was a minor leads the judge to rule in their favor.

Excited to hear everyone else’s impressions. It’s definitely a light, sweet comedy and it was fun to see Jim Carrey in his prime again.

I’ve officially finished work for the holidays today, so I’m gonna get right on this and check in later!

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I just wanted to add an addendum to my original thoughts. Originally, I had noted the abundance of Physical comedy, implying that as the OS Domain.

Thinking about it more, all the slapstick stuff if exclusively Jim Carrey. The humor is more about being forced to tell the truth when you’re expected to be dishonest (Duh).

If a different, less physical performer was playing Fletcher, the story would be more or less the same.

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Yeah, that was going to be my first comment. Without getting into all the domain stuff, all of the slapstick-y physical comedy is completely coming from him. Nobody else is even affected by any of that stuff, which surprised me.

That said:

I agree entirely!

Yes to all. I did briefly think Timelock because of the whole ‘I want him to lie for one day’ but it’s pretty obvious that the goal of the story has nothing to do with the lying aspect – it seems to be more about winning the case (kind of a Pretty Woman thing, where the ‘focus’ of the movie is not actually the OS goal, per se).

Yeah, that’s a tough one. It feels more like a Success to me, and technically I guess it is, since he does ‘win’ the case. But he does immediately regret it, so… not sure. I’m leaning 90% toward Success, but we can come back to this later.

I kind of toyed with these a little bit, because some of them could go either way for me. Like you could say:

‘The attorney decides he can’t lie and quits (forcing them to get Fletcher); Max chooses to wish for his Dad to not lie for the day (obviously forcing that to come true), etc.’

But the later act turns, particularly the discovery of the birth certificate that proves Tilly was a minor and wins the case, there’s no decision there that wasn’t predicated by an action. And Fletcher finding out about Max’s wish, there’s no decision there. So I would go action, too.

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I went back and forth on Drivers a bit too. But I didn’t feel like there was much focus on deliberation.

You could say that Fletcher blowing off Max’s birthday party was the straw that broke the camel’s back and made him decide to make the wish. The Lawyer at the beginning is just quitting. We aren’t privy to him deciding whether or not to quit.

There is a hard time limit on the wish, but like you said, it doesn’t play into the climax. It just passes and they remind you after the fact. :smile:

I think the Outcome is going to be key here.

I watched the Black Mirror episode Nosedive recently and was shocked how much it reminded me of Liar Liar. Not in tone or subject matter, but in message. It really made me wonder if this isn’t a Failure / Good story. The Apartment has a similar feeling at the end too.

But we can probably hold back until we can get a hold on Domains. :smile:

Glad we seem to agree on everything so far! What are your thoughts on domains / genre? I’d lean more toward Comedy of Errors stuff, personally.

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Yes, it felt like a Comedy of Errors to me too. In the court case side of things, everyone is lying to get what they want – Tilly is lying about everything, really; the lawyers are lying; the Partner woman is trying to lure Fletcher into a situation where he will completely fail. But all of those misattributions and manipulations are undermined by this one guy who is just telling the absolute truth – and that causes more problems because people don’t understand and believe he’s roasting them/being noble/etc.

So it definitely feels like a twist on the Comedy of Errors to me, probably a Psychology domain. I find movies involving courtrooms to be a real nightmare to try and work out. :joy:

But, yes, I feel this is a Psychology story with a VERY physical Main Character. The only problem I have with that is that I can’t see much in the RS that would suggest Physics. Fletcher and his kid barely see one another throughout. Unless you could say it’s the LACK of Activity that defines that domain, but I’m not sure that counts.

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Awesome! I agree with everything you said. Courtroom movies are tricky. :smile:

Physics does seem a little odd on it’s face, but I think a lack of doing works really well. The relationship isn’t doing the things it promises it will (playing catch, going to the party, going to wrestling). They’re not doing any father / son things.

There’s also the one thing that only Fletcher can do. The Claw!

This is coming along nicely. What are your thoughts on Approach?

My first instinct was Do-er. But thinking about it, most of the Do-er stuff is a result of the wish. I think his first instinct is always to lie or adapt himself.

Even with the pen, he’s trying to will himself into lying. He deals with his ex-wife and her boyfriend by acting nice then slipping in snide comments.

Mind works well for Fletcher because he’s so focused on work and advancing that he’s ignoring everyone else’s feelings.

Universe works well for Max’s because he’s his son and he’s losing him.

Honestly, I could see an argument the other way pretty easily too. :smile:

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How did I forget that?! Great point!

This is gonna be really tricky, because I agree, but I think his Be-er instinct is firmly in the Overall Story. E.g. ‘I have to win this case and, to do that, I have to lie’; being nice to all of the people in his office, etc. However, his MC throughline is barely there, so I’m struggling to think of examples of Do-ing apart from the beating himself up; driving like a lunatic to get somewhere; grabbing the pen to write a lie (I think that’s more of a Do-er thing, but it could go either way), etc.

Me too! Constantly flipping back and forth on this one. I think Max and the ex-wife share an attitude of ‘you need to be more honest,’ which could easily be a possibility. And, in turn, Fletcher is climbing the ranks in his firm and has a reputation as one of the best (it’s the whole reason that his boss brings him onto the case). So that’s an argument for the other way.

I think it comes down to two things:

  1. When it comes to the court case, is he willing or unwilling to find a solution?
  2. Is he a chip-on-the-shoulder guy or a hole-in-the-heart guy?

And those questions are surprisingly hard to answer for this movie. :joy:

Even if you think genre-lly, this movie is deceptively difficult.

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I actually think I’ve swung back the other way. :smile:

I think there’s actually a third influence character hand off: The Secretary.

The common thing with all three is pointing out how thoughtless he is, which is way more Mind then Universe.

All your points about climbing the ladder and making partner are great. He’ll do whatever it takes.

I thinking he’s willing, but not able. :smile:

It might be more helpful to think of Start / Stop here as step up / back off. I think the story is telling us Fletcher needs to step up. Step up as a father, stand up against all the awful people at his firm, etc.

Does that feel right to you?

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Alright, assuming we’re in agreement, here’s what we have so far:

Resolve: Changed
Approach: Do-er
Growth: Start
Problem Solving Style: Linear

Driver: Action
Limit: Optionlock
Outcome: ???
Judgment: Good

OS Domain: Psychology
MC Domain: Universe
IC Domain: Mind
RS Domain: Physics

I think I’m leaning more toward Failure the more I think about it. Whatever that magical panacea element that Fletcher adopts in his throughline is, it doesn’t feel like that touches the OS at all.

Also, with the OS in Psychology, it seems unlikely that “winning the case” is going to be the goal. That feels way more like Physics. Obtaining specifically.

I think we’re going to run into some issues defining the Goal. The Antagonist seems really hard to pin down. The only real option that pops into my head is his boss that he sleeps with.

My gut for Concerns is top right. Progress feels good for Fletcher trying to climb the ladder. Doing in the RS (or not doing). Being feels strong for the OS since everyone is lying all the time or trying to present themselves as something they’re not.

The only weird one for me is Preconscious in the IC throughline. But I do like the Issues underneath. I might need to watch again to refresh my memory.

Being sounds pretty great for a story about a pathological liar.

Then if you set the MC’s Issue as Fact, your Element quad is Unproven/Proven/Accurate/Non-accurate – which sounds promising given how unreliable (unproven) he is (not showing up for his family) and how inappropriate (non-accurate) his behavior is (especially after he’s forced to tell the truth).

As for the Goal, couldn’t it be something like Being a good father? (This is what his son is really asking for when he wishes he had to tell the truth, isn’t it?)

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That’s definitely where my eye was going too, Lakis. :smile:

I don’t want to get too far ahead though without Jay’s input. I think it’s pretty late in jolly old England.

As far as the Goal, I can definitely see it as being a better person. We’re really going to have to hash out the Outcome more though.

I’m really struggling with the author’s intent being that winning the case, the awful trophy wife stealing the kids, Fletcher quitting and subsequently being arrested for contempt as a Success. Maybe it is Objectively, but it doesn’t feel that way when you’re watching it.

Really good points though. :thumbsup: Have you had a chance to watch it again recently?

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It’s been a while. I saw this thread though and was thinking I should (maybe this weekend) because I’m pretty sure my son would love it.

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He probably would. I think all kids are suckers for Jim Carrey’s schtick. :smile: I hope you do get a chance to revisit it. You always have good input.


Sorry for the slow response! It was, indeed, late in Jolly Old Blighty and then I didn’t get a chance yesterday.

I think this is part of the problem. We need to try and figure out specifically where that ‘lie’ thing sits in the storyform. Is that part of the Overall Story or is it just a Main Character thing?

Because, broadly, I agree that it doesn’t much touch the court case, but it does have occasional cross-overs (it ruins his whole strategy for the case, which throws the whole OS ‘plan’ into chaos). And the more I think about it, the more convinced I am that the whole lying thing is firmly in the OS. In fact, I had a sudden brainwave last night about the whole thing:

The OS is basically about a whole bunch of people who lie constantly to influence the court case or the legal stuff in their favour (the woman he sleeps with is trying to expose him to the board; the other lawyers are trying to win; Fletcher is trying to establish this fraudulent strategy with his client; Tilly is lying about the WHOLE thing). So, if conflict is made up of two incompatible things, is there any stronger conflict for an OS made up of liars than having Tilly’s lawyer be someone who CAN’T manipulate the situation to his benefit? That seems like pure psychological conflict.

You also then get that Elf-like or Paddington-type comedy where someone is saying the kind of comical things that he shouldn’t. Only, instead of being naive like Buddy or Paddington, he just literally can’t stop himself from blurting out these hurtful opinions. So he’s offending every single person almost every minute with this kind of immature, unbelievable behaviour that is literally rooted in his psychology – or how he’s thinking.

And then if I have to separate the MC throughline, I think that is ENTIRELY about him trying to work his way up the ladder and boost his career so he can be THE lawyer. It’s why he sleeps with the woman; he puts his son off, etc. And then that leads to his eventual change of basically abandoning the case in favour of pursuing his son (which feels much closer to the IC perspective of ‘you need to be better,’ or something to that effect – I’m trying not to use the word ‘honest’ because I don’t know how separate that is from the OS).

I haven’t thought much about the goal, but I’ll give it a think and update later! I just had to post the above because I thought about this last night and it suddenly hit me like a big old Dramatica thunderbolt!