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I Love You Phillip Morris (2009) **

December 10, 2010

 

Written by: John Requa and Glenn Ficarra (screenplay), Steve McVicker (book)

Produced by: Andrew Lazar and Far Shariat

Directed by: John Requa and Glenn Ficarra

Rated R for sexual content including strong dialogue, and language

102 min.

U.S. Release Date: December 3, 2010 (limited)


Nearly two years after its initial premiere at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, the “gods” of the U.S. film market have finally deemed I Love You Phillip Morris appropriate for U.S. moviegoing audiences.  Originally U.S. distributors shelved this film indefinitely without stating a reason (the insinuation, however, was that it was due to the homosexual content of the film).  After having a tentative release date in July and getting a pushback to December, here we are… only two years after the rest of the world has seen it.  The film revolves around one man’s drastic life change after a brush with death, and how he uses that experience to live life on the wild side from there on out.  Along the way he meets a man who throws him for a loop and, instead of grounding him, turns him into more of a mess than he was before.  With homosexuality and same-sex marriage being hot-button issues in the U.S., can a film like Phillip Morris, even with a limited release, find marginal success in the not-so-open arms of stateside audiences?

 

 

 

Steven Russell (Jim Carrey) is a kind-to-everybody police officer from Texas.  He is happily married to his wife Debbie (Leslie Mann), and they have a daughter together.  The Russells live what seems to be the perfect life, but it is all a lie, as we learn that Steven is actually homosexual and is pretending to be straight.  When a brutal car accident puts Steven in the hospital, he dramatically reassesses his life.  As soon as he gets out of intensive care, Steven tells his wife about his homosexuality and decides to leave his charade and go to live life to the fullest, even if it means breaking the law.  Russell now lives an extravagant Miami lifestyle that is supported by various cons and frauds.  When Steven takes one con job too far, he earns a stay in the Penitentiary where he meets a jovial, yet shy and soft-spoken Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor).  Steven falls deeply in love with Phillip at first sight.  He becomes obsessed with freeing Phillip from jail and building the perfect life.  This obsession drives Steven to attempt and often succeed at one impossible con after another to make his dream a reality.

 

From the opening credit sequence, I Love You Phillip Morris smells heavily of “indie”.  The catchy DeVotchKa song, handwritten title cards, and snappy editing all give this film a familiar look, likening it to something like Little Miss Sunshine or Juno.  Though the film’s “controversial” subject matter turns Morris away from films like I previously mentioned, a similar style is applied throughout, with stunts the potential for any originality.  In addition to the aforementioned “indie stamps” on this film, the filmmakers employ extensive use of voice-over narration, as well as “funky” title cards throughout the film to serve as a crutch for not properly writing a script to convey all of the necessary plot points in “conventional” fashion.  Frankly speaking, this movie is a little all over the place, and seems like it was produced by novices.

 

 

In terms of the acting, both Carrey and McGregor perform very well in this film.  Carrey comes across as a completely delusional maniac, as he should, and McGregor plays a very meek and tender Phillip Morris and gives an earnest performance.  Though both performances are strong, they are both still grounded in the actors’ “typical” on-screen personalities, which holds the performances back from award-worthiness.  Though it is a minor role, Leslie Mann also delivers a solid performance as Steven Russell’s prudent-Christian-Texas-wife Debbie.  She gets the slight Texas drawl down, and plays a more serious role than others she has played in the past.

 

 

Overall, if you’re like me, you might watch this film only to see what all the fuss was about.  If you do, you will find a couple of pleasant takeaways here and there, but the full package isn’t a “home run” by any stretch.  I Love You Phillip Morris spotlights strong acting performances by the main characters, but suffers from too many indie clichés.  If you are squeamish about topics involving homosexuality, despite a couple of quick scenes, you shouldn’t find much to freak out about in this film.  What was all the uproar about, Hollywood executives?

5 Comments leave one →
  1. January 10, 2011 4:19 pm

    Jim Carrey gives one of the nerviest, boldest performances of his sporadically brilliant career. With an even better film, that can actually keep up with him. Nice review, check out mine when you can!

  2. June 7, 2011 1:29 pm

    Ewan MacGregor’s performance in this film is probably his best thus far. I’ve always thought of him as a solid B+ actor, but I now think he’s as talented as the best of them – Penn, Gosling, Day-Lewis, Mortensen, Firth, Renner, whoever. I mean that. I think he should have been nominated for an Oscar. I thought Jim Carey did a fine job, but like many of his other serious roles, didn’t shine for me. He’s a natural comedian and that’s where he does his best work. One of the best acting performances I’ve ever seen in any genre of film was Carey in “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events”.
    I really enjoyed this film. Found it to be mostly unpredictable, moving, and fun.

  3. mATtHEw gRAmItH permalink
    June 7, 2011 1:35 pm

    Oops! The comment from ‘the plants & animals’ was from me, writing from my wife’s computer!

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