It's good that somebody loves Phillip Morris | Film Review | Indy Week
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It's good that somebody loves Phillip Morris 

Hot guy and Jim Carrey in "I Love You Phillip Morris"

Photo by Glenn Watson

Hot guy and Jim Carrey in "I Love You Phillip Morris"

Just because a true story is stranger than fiction does not mean it doesn't have to be believable. And, just because a story's protagonist is a member of a historically marginalized group doesn't mean he can't be repellant.

These are only two of the problems plaguing I Love You Phillip Morris, which debuted at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival but struggled afterward to find a U.S. distributor and secure a release date. The comedy-drama is based on real-life con man Steven Russell (Jim Carrey), a churchgoing Virginia Beach cop who, after a near-fatal car crash, leaves his wife and moves to Miami in order to live life as his true self, a gay man.

The expensive lifestyle he adopts, however, soon lands him in the penitentiary, where he meets Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor), an inmate with a Southern accent and a courtly disposition. The two arrange to become cellmates and soon fall in love, an arrangement that goes awry once Phillip is released from prison. So, Steven hatches a series of increasingly elaborate escapes in order to reunite with his true love.

Phillip Morris generally succeeds as a satirical farce of middle-class mores; the explicit sex scenes nearly take care of that by themselves. However, the film breaks the mooring of its verisimilitude when it ventures into romantic and dramatic waters. Carrey gives a no-holds-barred performance, but the chemistry between he and McGregor is nil. It becomes difficult to pull for these star-crossed lovers when Steven, the central figure, is so loathsome.

First-time directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, who also co-wrote the repugnant, mystifyingly overvalued Bad Santa, too frequently lean on homosexuality as a comic crutch, a device that belies the film's purportedly progressive aim (no queer-in-prison trope goes unturned). Veered haphazardly from drama back to very black comedy, the finale to I Love You Phillip Morris only confirms what the audience has already figured out: The joke's on us.

Film Details

I Love You Phillip Morris
Rated R · 100 min. · 2010
Official Site: www.phillipmorristhemovie.com
Director: Glenn Ficarra and John Requa
Writer: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa and Steve McVicker
Producer: Andrew Lazar and Far Shariat
Cast: Jim Carrey, Ewan McGregor, Leslie Mann, Rodrigo Santoro, David Jensen, Jessica Heap, Marc Macaulay, Beth Burvant, Antoni Corone and Dameon Clarke

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