Although it’s more likely to serve as a calling card than a breakthrough for any of the parties involved, “The Four-Faced Liar” conceivably could generate enough interest on the fest circuit to earn a few theatrical playdates in addition to VOD and DVD exposure. Scripter and co-star Marja-Lewis Ryan provides a bisexual twist to her familiar plot about a twentysomething romantic triangle, but some viewers will be more intrigued and amused by this handsomely packaged indie’s modestly clever literary allusions.
At the Greenwich Village bar that gives the pic its title, five attractive young people fortuitously meet and forge friendships. Greg (Daniel Carlisle) and Molly (Emily Peck), straight arrows newly arrived in the Big Apple, are looking forward to a future of married bliss, while Trip (Todd Kubrak) and Chloe (Liz Osborn), casually hip, enjoy a more passionate but less stable union.
The wild card in the deck is Bridget (Ryan), a perky, petite and playfully promiscuous lesbian who rooms with Trip and Chloe — and almost immediately sets her sights on Molly. After what seems like a very long time, Molly acknowledges the attraction is mutual.
Like many other pics about twentysomethings in New York, “Four-Faced Liar” offers characters who somehow manage to maneuver through life and love without any visible means of support. In this case, the leads are (or at least appear to be) graduate students, providing ample excuse for Molly and Bridget to carefully study and endlessly discuss “Wuthering Heights.” Molly sees herself as a lot like Catherine, torn between her desires for a comfortably reliable Edgar and an excitingly sexy Heathcliff. Unfortunately for Greg, he’s simply not the Heathcliff type.
Under Jacob Chase’s smooth and sympathetic helming, “Four-Faced Liar” tactfully depicts the plot’s romantic roundelays with a minimum of lasciviousness and no nudity. (Even a borderline-silly New Year’s Eve tryst in a public bathroom isn’t allowed to get too far out of hand.) This directorial discretion, however, doesn’t prevent Peck and Ryan from infusing their performances with effective and affecting measures of raw emotion and avid sensuality.
In a role that calls for him to serve as a kinda-sorta 21st-century Ralph Bellamy, Carlisle is so buttoned down that when Greg finally expresses rage, he is, fleetingly, quite scary. Osborn makes the most of an underwritten part, and Kubrak persuasively indicates that even a cynical horndog can develop a conscience.
Fine lensing by Danny Grunes is the pic’s standout production value.