It's taken almost two years for I Love You Phillip Morris to finally reach mainstream theaters. Premiering at Sundance in January 2009, the movie was a near casualty for nervous American distributors, but had a showing here at last year's BendFilm festival to glowing audience reviews. After lying dormant in cinematic limbo, you can rest assured that this flick is now out in all its screwed up glory, with Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor doing gay-for-pay in a crazy twist on romantic comedies.
I have to admit I can't stand Jim Carrey. The only movie I've liked him in was Man in the Moon, in which he pretty much channeled Andy Kaufman. Other than that, he can take his cartoonish, rubbery face and jittery movements outta my life. But wait! Lo and behold, Carrey does a phenomenal job in this flick. So did McGregor, who has been pissing me off with his choice of movies for years. Plus, the movie itself is a well-written comedy/tragedy by directors John Requa, Glenn Ficarra (the irreverent Bad Santa team) and is like a combination of Raising Arizona meets Catch Me If You Can.
The film begins with the phrase "this really happened, really it did" because it's based on Houston Press reporter Steve McVicker's 2003 book about the real-life adventures of a multi-talented con man who frustrated and embarrassed detectives and jailers for years. Steven Russell (Carrey) begins as ultra hetero, married with child, leading the straight-and-narrow life as a Georgia cop and church organist. But Steve's hetero existence covers the fact that he's hooking up with a big mustached guy on the side. Steve has an epiphany after a near fatal car crash as he decides he's going to be openly gay and moves to Florida. He then becomes a con man, embezzling money to finance his "high on the gay hog" lifestyle. This lands him in prison where he meets timid Philip Morris (McGregor) which leads to Steven finagling and bamboozling for love even as he destroys everything that he's been striving for.
Carrey excels in every scene. For once, all his manic delivery has a purpose and he digs deep into all the more touching dramatic moments. He deftly shows us a man at odds with himself, cut loose from all ethics and morals. McGregor's passivity exudes submissiveness, but when he's fed up, you feel for his tainted love.
I went into this movie leery that a Jim Carrey vehicle would be like fingernails on a blackboard, but I came out snickering to myself at how freaking funny this flick really is.
I Love You Philip Morris
Starring Jim Carrey, Ewan McGregor, Leslie Mann, Rodrigo Santoro,
Directed by John Requa Glenn Ficarra