Sunday, February 26, 2012

I Love You Phillip Morris

image (2009)
Directed by
Glenn Ficarra
Written by John Requa & Glenn Ficarra, from the book by Steve McVicar
Starring Jim Carrey, Ewen McGregor, Leslie Mann
IMDB Entry

Jim Carrey is not made up to be a modern comedian. He came to prominence as a wild man who would do anything for a joke.* But he really started out as a light comedian a la Cary Grant.  The wild man persona made him a star, but the one thing that kept it his overacting tolerable was that you could feel, deep down, there was a certain charm hidden beneath the stupid jokes.

Now, Carrey is getting a bit old to play his hyperactive character, so he's been branching out into more serious roles.  And he's not afraid of a challenge, as I Love You Phillip Morris.

The movie is as weird and wild as any Carrey film, but it's actually based on a true story. It's the biography of Steven Jay Russell (Jim Carrey). Russell's life was, to say the least, different.  His first job was as a cop, but after an unhappy (for him) marriage and a series of other events, he realized he was gay, and moved to South Beach to support himself by becoming an outrageous and over-the-top con man.

It lands him in jail for fraud.  But while there, he meets the love of his life, Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor).  And Russell wants to do anything to be with Phillip -- and does.

The role is clearly a stretch for Carrey.  Not only is he playing a gay character, but a character who is clearly taking part and enjoying gay sex.**  It is helped by the fact that, even though he's conning people, he's always much more likeable than any of the characters he's swindling.

McGregor plays far against type, too.  He started out as a serious actor and, of course, became a heterosexual heartthrob.  Not only is playing a gay character a bit different, but his character makes a post look like a rocket scientist.  He never really catches on to Russell's games*** and, blinded by love, never seems to see what's in front of his face.

Director Glenn Ficarra had already scored some success with the scripts of Bad Santa; this was the first film he directed.

The movie did not do well at the US box office and was barely released.****  I'm sure that a film like this -- with explicit homosexuality and disrespect for everything -- was a marketing nightmare, where many areas of the country would greet it with outrage.

But if you want to see Carey and McGregor in a very different role, this is the movie to watch.

*Similar to Robin Williams.

**His preferences are revealed in a scene where he's having sex with someone and suddenly his partner raises his head.

***Well, few do, but he can see them up close.

****It did well enough overseas, though, to make back its costs.

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