I Love You Phillip Morris * * * *
Directors: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa.
Screenplay: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa.
Starring: Jim Carrey, Ewan McGregor, Leslie Mann, Rodrigo Santoro, Antoni Corone, Brennan Brown, Michael Mandell.
Jim Carrey’s goofy, rubber-faced, slap-stick material has been getting a bit stale recently. The best of his films have been when he has delivered a serious role; “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and “The Truman Show” have been notable showcases for this, but now he can also add this to his growing catalogue of fine comedic and dramatic
Steven Russell (Jim Carrey), a southerner who marries his churchgoing sweetheart (Leslie Mann), then finally reconciles with the reality that he’s gay. In an effort to support a new, extravagant lifestyle he summons his latent gift for larceny and becomes a skilled con artist. Eventually this lands him in prison, where he falls in love with a fellow inmate named Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor), and his real swindling takes over.
Despite Carrey and McGregor being two of the most familiar faces in film today, they still manage to give entirely believable performances as a gay couple, in a surprisingly heartfelt love story. It’s very brave and bold roles for them both. Carrey brings just enough humour and zaniness without overdoing it and McGregor adds a welcome naive and gentle innocence in their kinetic entanglement. It’s these strong, committed performances that propel this wildly inventive, modern romance. Some may be put off by the homeosexual nature of the story but they needn’t be. This is as valid and earnest as any heterosexual love affair and if anything, only serves to prove how much the actors have invested in it’s telling. It’s not too surprising that this was directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, the writers of the lewd Billy Bob Thornton film “Bad Santa“, but what is astonishing is their ability to keep it all real and their impressive balance of the story. It has all the right ingredients; great characters, an interesting and exciting story, hysterically funny moments, scenes of powerful drama and two excellent lead performances. It never goes into exactly how some of Steven Russell’s swindles are achieved but it’s fun to watch all the same. His elaborate scams border on the implausible but for the fact, that this is based on true events, making it all the more impressive and enjoyable.
A fine and fresh directorial debut for the “Bad Santa” boys, helped by two of the most enjoyable performances of the year. Next up for this directing team is “Crazy, Stupid, Love” with Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling. Here’s hoping it’s half as good as this.