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 run a movie for myself the first time, and if I can forget I had anything to do with the picture, and I’m halfway through the movie and I’m just the audience, then that is my litmus test for a film working. It doesn’t mean it’s going to work for anybody outside of myself, but when I lose the aesthetic distance between the screen and where I’m sitting, the first time I run a picture that I’ve directed for myself, if I’m aware to the very end that I’m the director, and all I can do is find things to fault, then I know I have my work cut out for me. And I have to roll up my sleeves and fix everything. But when I can watch a movie and I can forget that I made the movie, that’s the first sign that I’m going to be pretty happy with it, that I’m going to be able to live with it.”
~ Steven Spielberg On When He Thinks A Movie Is Working

“I was brought up on newspapers. I love newspapers. I love old-fashioned newspapers, but today I read them on the Internet because of time. And in New York, I read the morning papers, then I read the London papers on my iPad. But entertainment is very important. With broadband coming, everything is changing. People now spend four or five hours on their iPhones, their smartphones, which is changing the world totally. I found it with my young children. They are on their iPhones while they are watching television, doing two things at once. The fact that now we have 2.5 billion people with smartphones, with access to knowledge all over the world, with access to each other, government is going to change, the world is going to change. And it’s going to change very fast. We’ve only had smartphones for eight years, and now we have 2.5 billion of them. In another eight years, we will have 5 billion. The whole world will be on them… If newspapers have opinions, if they are really well-written, if they’re very reliable, people will pay for them. Then they are viable. We found [that] with the Wall Street Journal. You have newspapers on the Internet which are so good people will pay for them. There are people who steal things, rewrite them and put them out, like Google, but they are not reliable at all.”
~ Rupert Murdoch