Monday, October 18, 2010
I Love You, Phillip Morris *½
Director: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
Cast: Jim Carrey, Ewan McGregor
Leslie Mann, Rodrigo Santoro, Brennan Brown
Trey Burvant, Antoni Corone
It shouldn't be a surprise that movies about gay lead characters are still pretty much dealt with as strange novelties. It should be refreshing however to find a film with recognizable movie stars taking on these characters. This film does both, yet the only truly risque thing about I Love You, Phillip Morris is how often it pushes its condescension towards outrageous bad taste.
Based on the real life story of gay con man Steven Jay Russell (Carrey), it attempts to be Catch Me If You Can by way of a parody of Monster.
The film begins with an unarguably exciting sense of wonder as we meet Steven and his wife Debbie (a sadly underused Mann) a seemingly traditional couple with a secret: he's gay (the revelation by the way is hilarious and has a sense of comedic timing the film never recaptures).
After a life changing accident Steven decides it's time to come out, so he leaves his family, packs his bags and moves to Florida with a man (Santoro).
Seduced by the promise of a new exciting life he soon realizes that "being gay is expensive" leading him to start a life of crime.
He ends up going to jail for fraud and there meets Phillip Morris (McGregor) an angelic looking Southern boy he falls hard for. They begin a relationship and for the rest of the film we see as they try to maintain their love alive, in and out of jail, as Steven copes with his criminal past.
The entire film is plagued with so many tonal discrepancies that for a second or two you might wonder if this indecision by part of the directors to determine what kind of movie they were making is some sort of commentary on sexual unawareness (is this a bicurious movie?).
But of course it's not, it's actually a patronizing, conflicting work that deals with its themes in a completely lost manner.
For starters we begin to wonder why they try so hard to make this into a comedy when the truth is that Russell's life is actually a series of tragedies anchored by what can only be called mentally disturbed behavior.
He's more Tom Ripley than Frank Abagnale Jr. but the directors seem to overlook this because they seem scared of dealing with the darkness in a homosexual character.
Therefore they turn the entire plot into a condescending gag that reveals to us we can only empathize with this man by making fun of his misery.
Carrey, who under able hands can be a brilliant actor, is back to his wacky days here, turning Steven into Liar, Liar with a lisp: a character so devoid of any depth that you can't even muster the energy to dislike him.
All that Carrey does with his performance is turn hissy fits into sissy fits robbing the character (and presumably the real man) from any opportunity to be something more than caricature.
McGregor on the other hand turns in a beautiful, sensitive performance that goes beyond cliché even if the mvoie tries to turn Phillip into a full on Southern belle trapped inside a man.
That he's able to pull off a line like "enough romance, let's fuck" with just enough honesty to make us see the way angst and hormones battle within him as well as making us laugh out hard, makes for a really surprising element and perhaps the one thing that makes this film worthy.
It's a shame that the movie can not commit to being either a fun genre flick or a complex character study because when it's over we just wonder if the title is even right, given that Steven comes off looking as someone who only loves himself and even saying that feels like a lie.