Michael Shannon embodies the uncertainties of a confused man in A Little White Lie, a comedy about literary pretensions in the academic world. Director Michael Maren, who also wrong the screenplay, concocts a story about a New York janitor who's mistaken for a mysterious novelist who wrote one highly acclaimed book before vanishing from the publishing scene. Both novelist and janitor have the same name, do the mixup seems plausible. Desperate to save a literary festival at a small California college, the festival's organizer (Kate Hudson) invites Shannon's character to headline the event. Shannon's Shriver attends; the rest of the attendees take his baffled quality as a form of genius. The great author must be tolerated. Don Johnson portrays a professor who has seen better days. Shannon' role that turns him into a man without a core identity but with flickers of conscience that impedes his ability to carry out a con. Hudson gives a lively performance and Johnson makes the most of a small role. The ending adds an unusual, if not entirely convincing twist to the proceedings. The movie plays with ideas about identity and the perils of early literary success but isn't witty enough to be an intellectual head-spinner of a movie. A short speech that Shannon gives during a forum on art and reality should be clipped from the movie and preserved as a beautiful piece of work in an otherwise negligible effort.
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