Saturday, December 25, 2010

I LOVE YOU PHILLIP MORRIS (2010)

Written & Directed by Glenn Ficarra & John Requa


Where & When: Mann's Chinese 6, Hollywood, CA. December 12, 2010 7:50PM


"I Love You, Phillip Morris" was actually completed in 2009 and the film had many problems with distribution which caused it's release date to be delayed multiple times. The film has just been finally released in the U.S., although it had screenings throughout most of the rest of the world but after seeing the film, I can see another reason why it might have had difficulty making it in to American theaters.

It's certainly not because it is a bad film, in fact it's energetic and very entertaining but the issue is that it is a same-sex comedic love story that doesn't hold back in regards to what gay men do in the bedroom. I'm sure the big concern was how would middle America respond to this movie and despite the presence of Hollywood comedian, Jim Carrey in the lead role, even he may not help make this material go down easier.

Mr. Carrey plays Steven Russell, who appears to be gravely ill, begins to narrate his life up to this point and how he ended up in this hospital bed. He started off as a happily married, church-going man who worked as a police officer in Virginia Beach. His life seemed idyllic until he finds his biological mother, who had given him up for adoption but to his dismay and disappointment, she acts like she doesn't know who he is and she has kept her other children.

After nearly being killed in a terrible car accident, Steven decides to stop living a lie; he comes out as a gay man, much to the surprise of his confused but understanding wife (Leslie Mann). Steven moves to Miami, gets himself a young, cute boyfriend (Rodrigo Santoro) and begins a new life of fantastic parties, high-end clothing and luxurious furnishings. However, Steven quickly discovers that it's expensive being a fabulous homosexual so he begins credit-card fraud and insurance scams to supplement his income.

It doesn't take long for Steven to get caught and ends up incarcerated but it's in prison that he finds his true love. He meets a genteel and sensitive young man named Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor) who is there for auto theft. Steven showers him with small gifts and romantic gestures like arranging to have a man beaten for making too much noise and keeping Phillip awake.

After Steven is released from prison, he poses as a lawyer and successfully manages to get Phillip out of jail. They begin a life together and Phillip believes that his lover has given up a life of crime. That was truly Steven's plan but after conning his way into a job as a financial officer, he can't help himself and starts to embezzle money from the company. Even after Phillip becomes suspicious, Steven swears he not doing anything illegal. The walls inevitably begin to close in on Steven and his schemes but he is willing to do anything to keep Phillip in his life, no matter how extreme, in order to prove his love for him.

Believe it or not, this is based on a true story, with the real Steven Russell currently serving, essentially, a life sentence in a Texas prison for his final crime which the writing partners of the raunchy comedy, "Bad Santa" (2003) have taken this crazy tale and have done a fine job in their directing debut. Although the events in the film are mostly accurate, "I Love You, Phillip Morris" plays much more like a zany farce than a plausible recreation of events but it seems like the best direction for this unbelievable story to go. Despite the subject matter, the film is sweet, charming and delightfully hilarious.

Mr. Carrey and Mr McGregor are very convincing as the convicts in love as you feel a true affection they have for each other. Mr Carrey's manic energy is on full display here but it is muted just enough to not be too distracting. We know he could easily handle the comedy but he is a much better dramatic actor than you would think he would be but I suppose it's because we don't see him do it too often and he should.

"I Love You, Phillip Morris" is a wild and wacky ride that easily breezes through from comedy to drama, sweet to bittersweet and is well worth going on.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

LOVE AND OTHER DRUGS (2010)

Written by Charles Randolph and Edward Zwick & Marshall Herskovitz


Directed by Edward Zwick


Where & When: Los Feliz 3, Los Angeles, CA. December 4, 2010  9:45PM


"Love & Other Drugs" is the latest entry of the romantic dramedy that attempts to alter the well-worn path that these films tend to go down. This time we have the unlikely romance of two young people who are both very messed-up  but their biggest problem is that both are either afraid (her) or incapable (him) of being able to say, "I love you".

The year is 1996 and Jake Gyllenhaal  plays Jamie, a smooth-talking  player who makes a sport of bedding as many different women as possible and then discarding them like the used tissue that he used to clean himself afterwards. He just lost his job at an electronic store, after screwing his boss's girlfriend, so he decides to become a pharmaceutical sales rep.

Jamie goes to work for Pfizer and with his partner, Bruce (Oliver Platt) set about trying to get doctors to prescribe the drug, Zoloft to their patients instead of Prozac. They aren't having much luck but Jamie is determined so he decides to become creative. He knows that if he can get Dr. Knight (Hank Azaria) to make the switch, all of the other doctors will follow, so Jamie pays the doctor to allow him to shadow him so he can convince him to try his drug.

Jamie is in the room while Dr. Knight is seeing a patient and he meets Maggie (Anne Hathaway), an attractive young woman who is in the early stages of Parkinson's Disease. She is concerned about a mark on her breast and since she is told Jamie is an intern, she shows the doctor the lump. It turns out to be nothing more than a spider bite.

While Jamie is leaving the office, he is whacked on the head by a pissed-off Maggie who has just discovered that he nothing more than a sales representative. Jamie apologizes before having the nerve to ask her out. She declines his offer but Jamie is determined, so he manages to gets her phone number and talks her into meeting with him.

During their date, Jamie is trying his best to charm Maggie right out of her pants but despite knowing that's all he wants, she decides to forget about the small talk and just have sex with him, since that is all that they both want anyway.

Jamie now finds her even more appealing but Maggie will only continue to see him as long as it doesn't become serious which, for now, is perfectly fine with him. One evening, when Jamie is having some difficulty "rising to the occasion", Maggie tell him about this new drug that has just come out to help men with this problem called Viagra. Jamie realizes he knows exactly how to sell this drug. He goes to his partner to look in to selling it and after he does, Jamie becomes very rich and successful.

Soon, Jamie realizes that he wants more than just sex in a relationship and tells Maggie that he loves her, which is the first time he has ever done that in his life. Maggie is resistant to the idea but soon gives in because she also knows that she has feelings for him. Their relationship is put to a challenge when Maggie's disease starts to progress. Jamie begins working hard by researching Parkinson's and traveling across the country to talk with specialists to try and help Maggie. After they attend a conference on Parkinson's, Maggie and Jake both realize that their future together may be very difficult and are they really ready to handle what could lie ahead?

You see plenty of skin and actual sexuality in this film, which really shouldn't be so unusual for a romantic comedy but most tend to only just talk about sex and cut away before the clothing comes off. Mr. Zwick has used this approach before with his first feature film, "About Last Night. . ."  back in 1986 which is a much stronger film, in part because it's source material was based on a play by the accomplished David Mamet but also it featured characters who you clearly understood where they were coming from and you wanted them to work out the problems in their relationship. The two lovebirds in "Love" never come across like the perfect match and have so many obstacles working against them that it just seems that they never had plausible chance for any success. I just kept thinking that they probably would be better off just moving on and maybe try and be friends. While there are plenty of entertaining moments, the biggest problem is that the light comedy and the dark drama just are not successfully blending together well enough to make it feel like a cohesive film.

The film is helped by a strong supporting cast that include Josh Gad who plays Josh, Jamie's wealthier but just as messed-up younger brother, Judy Greer as a helpful receptionist and a way too brief appearance by George Segal and the late Jill Clayburgh as Jamie's parents.

Ms Hathaway slips easily into the type of role that Julia Roberts would be playing at the beginning of her career, in fact there are times in the film when she physically looks like Ms Roberts plus they both share the same engaging demeanor and sexy charm but she brings her own special moments to the part.

Mr. Gyllenhaal delivers another great performance and is perfect as character who starts off as nothing more than a womanizing jerk but he manages to discover, with the help of a woman who sees right through his nonsense, that he is capable of giving more of himself than he ever thought possible.

While "Love and Other Drugs" is far from a completely satisfying romantic comedy, it is still a nice diversion and much better than most of these comedies that have been dumped in theaters the past few years.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

AFI 2010 FILMS OF THE YEAR

The American Film Instittute has announced the ten best American movies of the past year. It is a great selection and many of these are my own personal favorites.

AFI MOVIES OF THE YEAR

"BLACK SWAN"

"THE FIGHTER"

"INCEPTION"

"THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT"

"127 HOURS"

"THE SOCIAL NETWORK"

"THE TOWN"

"TOY STORY 3"

"TRUE GRIT"

"WINTER'S BONE"

For more information, please go to:

AFI.com