The film shifts gears at this point, basically turning into Coming to America but without Darth Vader and Arsenio Hall. The kids are grown, and granted asylum in the U.S. We get some typical fish out of water, Borat-style cultural differences played for a few laughs, but this is where the narrative starts to fall apart. In order to appeal to U.S. audiences, we need a white lead, so we get Reese Witherspoon as the tough employment agency counselor. Maybe seeing the suffering of refugees will make her take stock of her own life, and she will form a bond with these strong, noble people. Maybe we've seen this subplot a 100 times before, and maybe we no longer care. There is little conflict moving the story forward after the first act with the hardest part of the refugee's lives behind them. A story about refugees adjusting to life as lower working class citizens in Kansas City, Missouri is less than compelling.
The Good Lie is a fictional story, and suffers for being less interesting than the actors' real life experiences (minus Reese Witherspoon.) Take the actor that played Paul (Emmanuel Jal), for example. At the age of 11 he was recruited by the Sudan People's Liberation Army and brought to secret military camps disguised as schools. When the fighting started, he was saved from the conflict by a British aid worker, Emma McCune, and he attended school in Nairobi. A few months later, McCune is killed in a suspicious accident, and Jal is forced to live in the slums. He finds hip hop and goes on to be a successful performer, activist, speaker and actor. In 2008, a documentary was released about his life entitled War Child.
Ger Duany, the actor playing Jeremiah, was also conscripted into service during the war. He managed to flee on his own to Kenya, traveling over 1,000 miles on foot. He was granted refuge in the U.S. at the age of 16. He began playing basketball and excelled at the sport enough to get a college scholarship. An injury forced him to take a year off, during which he was cast in I Heart Huckabees. This launched a modeling and acting career, as well as a friendship with David O. Russell, the director of Huckabees, and Mark Wahlberg.
Not only are the lives of the actors more interesting than the film, the story of how the film eventually got made is one of rejection, luck, circumstance and perseverance. After being green-lit, the project lingered in Hollywood limbo. The original writer, Margret Nagel, was so intent on making the film she optioned the script back. While searching for other work, Nagel had submitted the script as a writing sample to another studio. Turns out that studio was run by Molly Smith, whose family had taken in one of the Lost Boys of Sudan in 2001, so she had a personal connection with the material and agreed to finance the project.
Clearly the writers and eventual producers of The Good Lie were very passionate about the film and the children who had to endure the hardships caused by the war. So much so that they set up a charity to help those children. The Good Lie Fund will help children living in the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya.
The Good Lie is surrounded by remarkable and compelling stories: the real conflict it depicts, the actors who suffered through that hardship and the producers who are so dedicated to helping victims of that terrible violence they founded a charity to do just that. It's just unfortunate that the film itself isn't as interesting as the people who made it.