It’s a perfectly fine documentary once Gibney gets out
of the frame and stops complaining.
A better title for The Armstrong Lie would have been Alex Gibney’s The Armstrong Lie: Based on Alex Gibney’s Film that was Ruined by Lance Armstrong’s Doping Scandal. While the primary focus of this film is a sweaty Texan on a bike who survived a fatal diagnosis of cancer only to get busted for drugs, the underlying thread in this ruinous yarn is that the movie we’re seeing today only exists because Armstrong screwed the happy ending to Gibney’s 2009 documentary.
As if Armstrong’s own story isn’t narcissistic enough, Gibney’s sick desire to be a part of the story colors the film so negatively that the platitudes—from that “Armstrong owed me” to “How could he lie to my face?”—become a major stumbling block for The Armstrong Lie.
It’s a perfectly fine documentary once Gibney gets out of the frame and stops complaining. The film starts at the end of the 2009 Tour de France, when suspicions of Armstrong’s doping are confirmed. He loses sponsors, the public’s trust, and the professional cycling board bans him from all future competitions. It is quite the Humpty Dumpty fall, which this documentary attempts to stitch back together from old news footage, talking heads of former teammates, coaches, and the sketchy doctor who “trained” Armstrong.
But the flow is constantly punctured by Gibney’s interjections, as if we were hearing it from a jilted ex. May this be the last time a documentarian gets a piece of the screen when making a film about someone else (Yeah, right).
I can’t wait to see Gibney tackle the saga of Michael Phelps.
THE ARMSTRONG LIE
OPENS FRIDAY 11.22.13
KENDALL SQUARE CINEMA
355 BINNEY ST., CAMBRIDGE