I Love You Phillip Morris

2010-07-13 11:27
 
I Love You, Phillip Morris

What it's about:

Steven Russell (Jim Carrey) is the perfect husband, father, local sheriff and community member. That all changes after a near-death experience which convinces Steven to come clean about who he really is: a gay man. But Steven's extravagant new lifestyle proves to be too expensive to maintain through any legal means and he becomes a career conman. During the first of many prison sentences, he meets naïve inmate Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor) and the two fall hopelessly in love. Steven vows to do all he can to set them both free the only way he knows how – by conning his way out.

What we thought:

Forget Brokeback Mountain, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, every musical you've ever seen: I Love You Phillip Morris outgays them all. It's not just gay, it is gay – outrageous, gleeful and colourful in every way it can muster.

Though this is a comedy starring Jim Carrey, don’t go expecting a slapsticky knees-up and a typically overwrought Carrey performance. There's a dark, devious heart beating just beneath the surface of this otherwise glossy romp. The film opens with a sickly looking Steven on his deathbed, wryly looking back at his life of crime and punishment. And what a life. After leaving his suitably shocked wife Debbie (a moving Leslie Mann) and moving to sunny, decadent Miami, Steven meets Jimmy (Rodrigo Santoro) and lives life to the full, embracing gay culture and all the expensive, designer trappings that go along with it.

That the story is based on the real-life of con artist Steven Jay Russell doesn't way I Love You Phillip Morris in the usual biographical trap of straining to 'honour the subject'. This is not that type of movie. Steven's many flaws and talents are laid bare and colour the movie with his ballsy escape plans, his desperate need to be loved and his fateful mistake in equating that love with material things. It all comes to a head when Steven falls for the titular Phillip Morris, a sweet-natured young man who sees in Steven the promise of a better life. Their blossoming romance behind the bars of a state penitentiary is told with a warm, generous heart though directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa , for better or worse, can't help but cast the lovers as a couple of lovesick losers just living the only dream they dare to dream.

Jim Carrey is almost unrecognisable as Steven, with the actor having shaved his hairline back to give him the unsettling look of a clown who's wandered into a funeral and is trying to lighten the mood. His Steven is both charming and unreliable, generous and narcissistic and harder to pin down the more we get to know him. The very hugeness of Steven Russell leaves little room for McGregor to do much more with Phillip Morris, other than to exist as Steven's fantasy of a carefree life. That both actors seem to be having so much fun with these characters is part of the pleasure, even if these slick operators are people you'd rather avoid in your own life.

I Love You Phillip Morris is something of an oddity in US cinema and has been dubbed "the most cursed film in history". Firstly it has not even been released there yet, with distributor Consolidated Pictures postponing the release countless times over the last year. It's scheduled to be released in the States in October this year, although that remains to be seen. It certainly is a tough film to market, made even more so by its contentious subject material.

Even having seen the film, I still find it hard to discern just what it is all about. Are we really meant to be that invested in Steven's many lies and deceptions? Is this a con caper along the lines of Catch Me If You Can and Nine Queens? Or is it just a syrupy gay romance that happens to not take itself all that seriously?

It's a movie that goes out of its way to frustrate you while serving up such entertaining moments of pure lunacy at the same time. Carrey naysayers are unlikely to warm up to him now, but there's no denying his magnetic portrayal of a man who would literally do anything for love. Isn’t there just a little bit of Steven Russell in all of us?


Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor camp it up as a convict couple whose lavish lifestyle is maintained by a series of frauds. Based on a real-life story.

Jacob 2010/07/13 8:02 AM
For all Jim Carrey's slapstick exploits its usually great to see him challenge himself when presented with edgier material. Think Man on the Moon, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and now this twisted yet fascinating film.
Sombre_Spyder 2010/07/13 10:16 AM
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I walked into the cinema with high hopes and intrigue and crawled out filled with utter disappointment. I enjoy seeing Jim Carrey out of his usual "Ace Ventura/Dumb and Dumber" box (both fabulous films btw!) - such as The Number 23 etc - however, I found this film rather uninteresting and shallow. Sure the con-man part of the story was fascinating but if the intention was to set our focus on the con-man issue it failed miserably as one was constantly distracted by the slapstick, toilet-humour surrounding clichéd, camp, homosexual behaviour... All in all, despite its occasional sentimental and somewhat humorous moments, I thought it lacked depth. Needless to say I went to see The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus immediately after to redeem my evening of utter disappointment. Noddy Badge for Jim Carrey though! Different character entirely for him!
Mikey 2010/07/13 11:14 AM
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This is such a stupid movie just like all his others
Smiler 2010/07/13 11:14 AM
I loved ths movie, camp and all , lots of laughs and some brillint acting from the two leads
Nadia 2010/07/13 12:51 PM
I love it, brilliant way to de stress
Maryna 2010/07/19 3:22 PM
This is not a film that you go and see if you embaress quickly. Believe me, there is a few times I wish I didn't have the company with me, I did. Homophobic? SKIP THIS ONE...believe me. All in all, not bad, but def not Jim Carey's best or perhaps not my cup of tea???
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