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.