Liar Liar is a comedy that skirts the line of being for both kids and adults – with the high energy and animated performance of Jim Carrey making the kids laugh, and the more adult jokes and mature themes that fly over kids’ heads.
It wasn’t until I rewatched as a lawyer that I realized that family law themes make up the entire plot of the movie.
To summarize, after a string of unkempt promises and unchecked white lies, Fletcher Reede’s (Jim Carrey) son Max makes a birthday wish that for just 24 hours, his dad couldn’t tell a lie. With no explanation, which adds to the charm of the movie, the birthday wish is granted.
The inability to lie quickly poses problems for Fletcher. Flectcher, a lawyer, agrees to take on a family law file at his firm about to go to trial where his legal strategy hinges on his witnesses, and himself, lying. Through the gut punching sadness of his son’s disappointment of having an unreliable father, sprinkled in with comedic relief of how Fletcher’s compulsive lies are catching up with him, we see unfold on screen Fletcher’s realization that his behavior and lying has put his relationship with his son in jeopardy.
Re-watching as a family law lawyer, and as a child who has experienced separation, Liar Liar touches on so many brain and heart strings. It gets me every time I watch it!
The recently separated husband and wife in Fletcher’s case are unable to settle on property division due to wording of a prenuptial agreement. The prenup stated that if the wife committed adultery, she would not be entitled to a comprehensive equalization of marital property.
The legal strategy Flether proposes to present at trial was that the wife did not commit one single act of adultery, therefore, she should be entitled to a full equalization. We of course find out this is not true, there were in fact several acts of adultery but only evidence of one, and we learn how far Fletcher was willing to lie in order to win the trial.
In the end, there is a technical truthful loophole that Fletcher discovers that wins him the case, but his ethics are further challenged when his client tells him that despite her ex-husband being a good father to their children, she’s going to be seeking full custody because she knows it means she’ll get more in child support.
All the technical and ethical things about practice and family law aside, what I paid more attention to in my rewatch is the juxtaposition of co-parenting relationship that’s shown between the husband and wife at trial, and between Fletcher and Audrey Reede.
Children used as Leverage in Separation Proceedings
On one hand we see one parent using their children as legal leverage during a divorce trial, and on the other hand we see Fletcher and Audry navigating difficult parenting decisions through the lens of what is going to be in the best interest of their son Max.
In my re-watch, I paid closer attention to the co-parenting dynamics of Fletcher and Audry. Some of these dynamics included setting aside their personal issues and having difficult conversations around parenting such as parenting time, introduction of new partners, and a potential relocation.
While I’d say their conversations and decision making aren’t perfect (and no co-parenting relationship is), they do show that they often can keep things lighthearted with playful tongue and cheek comments, that tough conversations are often not in front of their son, and they are not putting it on their son to make decisions on parenting. All of which are positive things to see!
We see that with the introduction of Audry’s new partner, Jerry, that Fletcher allows Max to form a relationship with Jerry as he is another caring adult who is trying to navigate his role in a potential blended family situation, all while being mindful of Max’s needs.
Importance of Relationship with Each Parent
We also see many moments where Fletcher and Audry recognize the importance of the relationship each parent has with Max and encourage that relationship. Part of the heartbreak is that we see how much Fletcher has taken that for granted through his lies and unreliability in showing up for Max (missing birthday parties, canceling visits, prioritizing work).
It’s those struggles and accomplishments as co-parenting working together for their child’s best interest that pulls on the heartstrings in my rewatch of Liar Liar as a family law lawyer.
It is through the birthday wish being granted that Fletcher is able realize how important it is to be present and show up for his son, and how hurtful lies can be to those he cares about. In his epiphany, he commits to being a more present father who prioritizes his son’s need and ends up quitting his job at his firm and opens his own legal practice.
Of course, when Fletcher and Audry allude that they’re going to get back together again at the end, it definitely makes my eye twitch a bit and I internally scream “What the hell are you doing?”, but hey! I get it’s a Hollywood happy ending and it is a movie after all. I just hope they signed a prenup.
For more information on co-parenting, check out our other blog posts and stay tuned for more!
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- COVID-19 and co-parenting: How to resolve conflict
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By Alyssa Bird
If you have questions about this post or co-parenting in general, contact me at email@example.com.