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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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“Tarkovsky was sitting in the corner of the screening room watching the film with me, but he got up as soon as the film was over and looked at me with a shy smile. I said to him, ‘It’s very good. It’s a frightening movie.’ He seemed embarrassed but smiled happily. Then the two of us went to a film union restaurant and toasted with vodka. Tarkovsky, who does not usually drink, got completely drunk and cut off the speakers at the restaurant, then began singing the theme of Seven Samurai at the top of his voice. I joined in, eager to keep up. At that moment, I was very happy to be on Earth.”
~ Akira Kurosawa On Watching Solaris With Andrei Tarkovsky

“Women’s power is too potent to waste on selfies… Truly dangerous women aren’t looking for dates or husbands, and they do not travel in packs. They rarely have many female friends. Their register is either universal, or intensely personal. They play mind games and make promises. Whether they deliver or not remains a secret, and secrets are essential to seduction. The Web has eroded every notion of privacy and stolen the real power of women: the threat of mystery itself.  “I can see you’re trouble” was once the biggest compliment a man could pay a woman. There was going to be a dark spiral into the whirlpool of sex; there were going to be tears on both sides, secrets and regrets, scandal. Today, everyone is trouble.”
~ Joan Juliet Buck in “W”

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