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By Gregg Goldstein gcgoldstein@yahoo.com

Short Take – I Love You Phillip Morris (views)

There’s nothing that can prepare you for I Love You Phillip Morris, a con-man, gay-romantic, prison-escape, sex-farce comedy-drama (based on an unbelievable true crime story… or was it?) which defies any expectations you bring to it.
First-time writer/directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa are trying for something much more than the bitter satire of their great Bad Santa script. The subject is Steve Russell (Jim Carrey), a married cop who comes out of the closet and into a life of crime-fueled luxury, landing him in prison. There he falls in love at first sight with the shy, blonde title character (Ewan McGregor), but he’s just as in love with con artistry. The result is a series of dizzying twists and turns that would be a crime to spoil.

The film’s tone stays devoted to whatever Carrey’s character wants you to feel (well, most of the time), a dizzying experience that veers from comedy to drama to romance to suspense and many places in between. It’s a daring move to go from prison oral sex jokes to a completely serious, intense romantic scene between two men within minutes of each other. Both would work perfectly on their own terms if viewed as separate clips. Together the effect is disorienting, and surely will alienate even some open-minded viewers, but it’s key to the filmmakers’ audacious agenda.

Some will see lost opportunities for laughs (and rightly so, given the principals’ track records). But others could justifiably argue it would’ve erased some affecting poignancy in key scenes, rare in any romantic drama these days, let alone a gay one with movie stars.
It’s a testament to Carrey’s ability that fears of “can-he-tone-his-shtick-down” don’t haunt the viewer. He segues from characteristically goofy moves to earnest moments that don’t seem as maudlin as he’s been at times. McGregor is as good as ever, completely authentic. You totally buy the passion between them.

Morris cons its audience, but in a good way. We’re its victims, and the strength of its appeal will lie mainly in your ability to sit back, go along for the ride, let where it takes you affect you and not mind the manipulation.

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“I didn’t see anything this year. I’ve been making this movie for so long. I loved Kingsman. I really liked It Follows. It was the best premise I’ve seen in a horror film in a long, long, long time. It’s one of those movies that’s so good you get mad at it for not being great. He could have kept his mythology straight. He broke his mythology left, right, and center… Noah Baumbach. There’s a Paul Mazursky quality to his films. I haven’t seen all the Duplass brothers movies, but the ones I’ve seen I really liked. All that mumblecore stuff happened when I was in Germany doing Inglourious Basterds, so I didn’t even know about it. Then I came home and started reading about it, like,What the fuck is this shit? So I watched Baghead. I said to my friend Elvis Mitchell, “Have you seen any of those mumblecore movies? I was curious and watched Baghead, and I thought it was really good.” He goes, “You saw the good one. They’re not all like that. You reached into a pickle barrel and grabbed the right pickle.” I haven’t seen Hannah Takes the Stairs.”
~ QT On Movies He Likes

“You kind of keep your tools sharp by working all the time. We are professionals. You can’t wait for inspiration. I try to do it every day. When something good comes, you have to be prepared to polish it, carve it and chisel it, that’s the work. But the actual intention, what you are really going to be writing about, that’s going to come up from a really authentic place that is deep and over which you exercise no conscious control.”
~ Leonard Cohen talks work at 80

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