Directed by Atom Egoyan, starring Kevin Bacon, Colin Firth, Alison Lohman, Sonja Bennett, Rachel Blanchard and Kathryn Winslow.

Based on Rupert Holmes' 2003 novel, 'Where the Truth Lies' is an absorbing - if overblown and overlong - meditation on fame, sex, drugs, murder and blackmail. There's a lot to cover, even with a running time of 108 minutes, and director Atom Egoyan ('Felicia's Journey', 'The Sweet Hereafter') doesn't quite pull it off.

In the 1950s, witty song and dance duo Lanny Morris (Bacon) and Vince Collins (Firth) are at the pinnacle of their career as America's most-loved entertainment team, hosting 48-hour charity telethons and headlining Mafia-financed nightclubs. But there's also a darker side to this tag-team: pill-popping, alcoholic womanisers they may be, but are they also murderers? When the body of a naked young woman is found in the bathtub of their hotel suite, both Morris and Collins have alibis so nothing can be pinned on them but, not long later, the inseparable team break up.

In 1972, 20 years after the dissolution of their partnership, determined young writer Karen O'Connor (Lohman) is intent on uncovering the truth behind the Morris-Collins rupture, including the story behind the beautiful corpse in the bathroom. She starts working on Collins' autobiography with him but it's not long before Morris also insinuates himself - not without encouragement from O'Connor - into her life. 

Although (supposed to be) a jaded journalist, O'Connor is taken aback by the Pandora's Box she has opened as the truth turns out to be a dense maze of double and triple-crosses, betrayed trusts, secrets, lies and lobsters. This is not a straightforward story and Egoyan tells it in an anything but linear fashion, jumping without pause between its dual, and beautifully realised, settings in the glossy 1950s and the atmospheric 1970s. The cinematography, courtesy of Paul Sarossy, is the one delineating factor, all events from the 1950s bathed in a warm glow - which is often contrary to unfolding events - while the later scenes have a sharper visual edge.

Bacon and Firth are a triumphant double act. Bacon, who seems to develop more and more as an actor with the passing years, has the more showy role as the manic Lanny, while Firth's Vince hides much menace behind an affable front. Lohman, however, whose wide-eyed innocence was used to brilliant effect in 'Matchstick Men', is just a little too much of an ingénue in a role which demands more gravitas.

That said, there's much to admire in 'Where the Truth Lies'. The sets, the cinematography and the two lead actors all make this dreamy and melodramatic murder mystery much more watchable than might be presumed. Think of it as an antidote to Christmas blockbusters and you can't go far wrong.

Caroline Hennessy