I Love You Phillip Morris

Review by Alexander Pashby

Directed by

Glenn Ficarra John Requa

Starring

Ewan McGregor Jim Carrey Leslie Mann

Anticipation.

A sensitive portrayal of a gay con artist? Carrey’s your man.

Enjoyment.

Confusing, but not in that way.

In Retrospect.

There’s no future for us, Phillip Morris.

The fact it’s based on a true story is the only convincing thing about Glenn Ficarra and John Requa’s directorial debut.

‘This really happened. It really did.’ So boasts a pair of titles at the start of I Love You Phillip Morris, the true story of straight cop-turned-gay grifter Steven Russell (Jim Carrey), who funds his newly flamboyant lifestyle with a series of small cons and fraudulent law suits.

When, inevitably, Russell is caught and sent to the state penitentiary, he meets the love of his life, the titular Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor). He then escapes on four separate occasions, each time embarking on a different scam in an attempt to free his lover and provide them both with a happy ending. His escapes and schemes may veer wildly between stupidity and genius, but always there is an undercurrent of desperation.

Unfortunately, the fact that it’s based on a true story is the only convincing thing about the movie. Given that it’s the directorial debut of Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, the writing team behind the subversive Bad Santa and Bad News Bears, perhaps what’s most disappointing is the film’s inability to establish a consistent tone.

Certainly, the material is missing the sure hand of a Terry Zwigoff or Richard Linklater, or perhaps its unevenness is merely a result of the re-edit it underwent after causing a panic amongst US distributors due to mainstream-unfriendly gay sex scenes. Carrey in particular, who can excel at either zany or serious if given half a chance, is left sitting uncomfortably on the fence between the two.

Ol’ Rubber Face has enjoyed something of a resurgence in popularity recently thanks to solid smaller movies (Yes Man), mo-cap adventures (A Christmas Carol) and a strong presence on Twitter. Quite how his fan base will react to I Love You Phillip Morris remains to be seen.

On the one hand, Carrey and McGregor’s performances are rooted in cliché; but then there’s truth in every stereotype. Audiences are willing to respond positively to two A-listers going all Brokeback Mountain, and yet this film shows none of the boldness of Ang Lee’s trailblazer: the sex scenes going no further than some out-of-frame fellatio and silhouetted kissing.

Published 16 Mar 2010

Tags: Queer Cinema

Anticipation.

A sensitive portrayal of a gay con artist? Carrey’s your man.

Enjoyment.

Confusing, but not in that way.

In Retrospect.

There’s no future for us, Phillip Morris.

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