Saturday movie review: 'The Armstrong Lie'

Courtesy Sony Pictures Classics

I don’t remember exactly where I was when I first heard that Lance Armstrong had finally admitted that the allegations about his doping activity were true, but I do remember exactly how I felt. I was saddened. Saddened far more by the truth than I expected I might be when the allegations first began swirling years before.

I’ve never really followed the sport of cycling, and Lance Armstrong was no hero of mine. But he was a hero to many, including many youngsters and many affected by cancer. Learning Armstrong was yet another to fall from the pedestal and into disgrace hurt my heart. His admission was, to me, final proof that heroes in American sports simply do not exist. Proof, too, considering how long he'd held out on revealing the truth, that Armstrong was a big fat liar.

There’s been so much in the news for years now — too much, really — that I fully understand those who have followed his story closely being fed up, filled up and done had enough of Armstrong, for better or for worse. As someone who quickly tires of the 24/7 rehashing of bad news, good news and all things celebrity, I purposely steered clear of much of the news and eventual over saturation on all things Armstrong, though. So I hadn’t heard the entire story and looked forward to seeing it through the lens of award-winning documentarian Alex Gibney in his film THE ARMSTRONG LIE.

Courtesy Sony Pictures Classics

I had the opportunity to screen THE ARMSTRONG LIE this past week in advance of it being featured at the Starz Denver Film Festival. Bottom line: I found it a compelling tale of one man's blatant and boorish refusal to fess up to his wrongdoings despite irrefutable evidence against him. Ultimately, his fixation on power and winning no matter what, no matter who he destroyed, brought him down. I found myself shaking my head again and again throughout the viewing, wanting to just grab Armstrong by his famed yellow jersey and shake some sense and remorse into him.

What I liked most about THE ARMSTRONG LIE:
I appreciated the explanation of the film's title. Sure, we all know Armstrong lied, so it seemed an obvious choice of a title. But knowing that the title comes straight from front-page headlines of French newspapers — "le mensonge Armstrong" — emphasizes the world-wide disgust with Armstrong's defiant refusal to admit the truth. As mentioned in the film, doping was unfortunately commonplace in cycling, but it's Armstrong's adamant and repeated lying that was and is the story.

I also appreciated the filmmaker's honesty throughout the film. It's difficult to not get caught up in the hype and hope of Armstrong's attempt at a comeback. Gibney admits the challenge it was to not be lured in by the hope, the charm. Perhaps those moments of wanting to believe, to cheer Armstrong on are what made the betrayal all the more distressing to Gibney, who in turn expected and eventually received the on-camera apology.

Plus, I just really liked the filming of the races. During race scenes, I wondered again and again how the heck they filmed such footage. The music selections for the racing scenes (and others) were a perfect complement. The impressive filming and winning soundtrack made the incredible story far more enjoyable than one might expect such a frustrating, maddening tale to be

What bothered me most about THE ARMSTRONG LIE:
Nothing about the film itself, just the lies, really. And Armstrong's unbelievable inability to admit the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Worse yet? His lack of remorse.

A woman who viewed the film at the same time I did said to me afterward that she thinks Armstrong is truly a psychopath. I'm not sure I'd go that far, but it sure seems to me that some sort of psychological issue led to Armstrong's downfall as a hero and champion. What's most disheartening about that, I told my fellow film goer, is that eventually Armstrong's children will learn the same ugly truth the rest of the world has and will no longer consider their dad a hero and champion either.

THE ARMSTRONG LIE, rated R for language, opens in NY, LA and Austin Nov. 8, 2013. Learn more from Sony Pictures Classics.

Disclosure: I screened this film as a member of the media covering the 36th Starz Denver Film Festival.