Set in the midst of a midwestern literary festival, “A Little White Lie” finds a man named Shriver who is facing an identity crisis. His life appears to be that of a handyman’s when a letter comes his way inviting him to be a part of a college’s literary festival. At first, he believes that he only shares his name with the famous author, but as the story continues, we see new dimensions being explored. He doesn’t aware of the kind of fame and reputation he holds for the one bestselling book he authored. Nonetheless, Shriver agrees to attend the conference and tries his best to fool not just everyone around him but himself too.
Directed by Michael Maren, “A Little White Lie” stars brilliant actors like Kate Hudson, Don Johnson and Michael Shannon in the lead roles. The narrative of the film is adapted from Chris Belden’s bestselling novel titled “Shriver.” The movie dives deeper into the themes of facing an identity crisis on top of alcoholism. It weaves an intricate tale of lies, deceit, and finding oneself, all with a bit of humor and a lot of charming antics. Nonetheless, “A Little White Lie” takes some creative liberties and bends the narrative to adapt it from the pages of the novel to the big screen. If you are wondering what happens in the movie and want to know who the real Shriver is, then let’s pluck in the details below.
Plot Synopsis: What Happens In ‘A Little White Lie’ Film?
It all starts with a college professor scrambling to keep her literary festival up and running. With barely any visitors and unknown authors on the panel, Simone’s chances of having another annual literary festival are slim. In a desperate attempt, she sends an invitation to none other than CR Shriver, a mysterious yet legendary writer who went AWOL after publishing a heavily admired bestseller titled ‘GOAT Time.’ Simone hopes and prays for a positive response from the author that will put their tiny festival back on the map for the world to see. Moreover, his presence on the panel will attract hundreds of visitors from across the country. Nobody has seen the man himself. He has neither appeared for interviews nor collected a national award that was bestowed. Shriver is an enigma in himself as his thousands of admirers wonder what he looks like and who he is in reality.
On the other hand, we see a lowly handyman with a drinking problem receive an honorary letter to come to the literary festival. Also named Shriver, he believes he is mistaken for someone else and asks his friend to formulate a response. With the belief that he has nothing to lose, his friend convinces Shriver to go to the conference and absorb some of the love the community has for the author. It won’t be an issue since nobody knows what the author looks like. Despite being hesitant to pull off such a ruse, Shriver agrees and packs his bag to depart for the literary festival. In a constant feeling of anxiety and fear, Shriver scrambles to make it through the flight.
As soon as the flight descends, Shriver cannot take it anymore and decides to go back. However, he soon changes his mind when he meets Simone in person. Bewildered and charmed by her personality, he decides to see it through. What follows is a series of comedic incidents that happen one after the other. He is greeted by numerous fans and adoring readers who cannot get enough of his book. On the other hand, he has some readers who despise him for writing a misogynistic and sexist novel. As it happens in reality as well, no author can please all factions of readers in the world. If one section loves the way he portrays reality and comments on the human condition, the other complains of furthering a biased concept with a motive to disgust and despise.
Shriver battles the inner conflict that pulls him in two different directions. The whole debacle is a commentary on the imposter syndrome hidden in every writer, as they feel unworthy of the praise and love they receive. However, in this particular movie, Shriver is shown as a true imposter because he is not who he pretends to be. Like almost every writer and artist out there, Shriver feels out of place and undeserving. In the meantime, he begins falling for Simone in a way he hasn’t fallen for anyone else. What begins as an innocent attraction transforms into love when Shriver starts caring about her opinion and what she thinks of him.
On top of it all, a pesky journalist wants an exclusive interview with Shriver to earn his reputation back. He interviewed Shriver back in the day for Rolling Stone, and now that he is back from hibernation, the journalist wishes to get another interview as a tell-all tale of his mysterious vanishing act. Under the stress of slipping up, Shriver even confesses that he is not the author he is pretending to be. Rather than heeding his honesty, the journalist twists this story into a tale of imposter syndrome and gets a thousand clicks. Yet another commentary mocking online journalism and its impact. Consequently, this pulls another person out into the open who claims to be the real Shriver and unravels the handyman’s woven lie. This is when the ultimate question arises out of this mess.
‘A Little White Lie’ Ending Explained – Who Is The Real Shriver?
We know very little of handyman Shriver’s past. In the span of the movie, we see him at his torn-apart place, which he shares with a ginger cat and a huge watermark on his ceiling. His identity remains mysterious to keep up the suspense about his true self. However, Shriver himself seems confused as to what he used to do before being a handyman. ‘GOAT Time’ was published 20 years ago, and Shriver seemingly has no clue if he actually wrote the book or not. His penchant for literary excellence is shown in the way he pens down a few words on a notepad before going to the conference. This seems to be a way for Shriver to comprehend if he is capable of writing such an impactful book. His drinking and some troubled experiences could have forced him to block out the part of his life where he wrote the book. Furthermore, his reclusive and introverted attitude aligns with the fact that he never appeared for any interviews or collected the award.
Even in the creative writing class and the literary panel of the conference, whenever Shriver was posed with a question regarding the world of fiction and its blurring lines with reality, he seemed to have a complicated answer that both perplexed the audience while giving them proof that his mind is worthy of authoring such a great novel. His thoughts might be jumbled up with the troubles of his life, but his expression and his way with words reflect how he thinks and how well he is able to put his thoughts to paper. The students in the class and the audience at the panel discussion are amazed by his response, and they don’t wonder for even a second that he might not be the author of ‘GOAT Time.’
In the end, the person who claims to be the real Shriver ends up being the imposter and is arrested by the police. Hence, this leaves us with only one Shriver, who seems to be the perfect contender for his reputation and the real author of the book. That’s when Blythe, one of the other authors at the festival, discovers Shriver’s amazing musings on paper and clears any doubt over his true identity. She is mesmerized by the way he conjoins sentences to create magic on paper. We are led to believe that handyman Shriver is the real Shriver and worthy of all the praise that is conferred on him.
Furthermore, throughout the movie, we see Shriver talk to himself constantly. Like an eternal struggle to keep himself in order, Shriver creates an alter ego that always questions his ways and debates his actions. Interestingly, the alter ego is seen wearing spectacles in his imagination that match those in the only image of the author Shriver that exists on the back cover of his book. We believe this is a way of foreshadowing Shriver’s true self and a way to tell the audience that he is not an imposter but rather suffering from imposter syndrome, which forces him to neglect all his reputation and praise. He blocks out the part where he wrote a book and gained unparalleled success, as he believes he never deserved it. The words and the story of the book have always been inside him. Even in the passage that he reads out loud to Simone, he talks of a stranger who lives his life as he looks in from the outside. Such hints assuredly point toward Shriver’s true identity, which is that of the author of ‘GOAT Time.’