18 March 2010

Movie Review: I Love You Phillip Morris


I Love You Phillip Morris
2009, 100mins, 15
Director (s): Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
Writer (s): Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
Cast includes: Jim Carrey, Ewan McGregor, Leslie Mann, Rodrigo Santoro, Brennan Brown
UK Release Date: 17th March 2010

There exists a swathe of film fans who would suggest that Jim Carrey has lost his edge with age. 2008’s “Yes Man” was adequate but undeniably frothy whilst kiddie aimed efforts like “Horton Hears a Who!” only further support such a theory. Don’t get me wrong, both of these films are varying degrees of good but neither has the manic bite of Carrey’s very best work. “I Love You Phillip Morris” is a bold attempt to regain some of the crazy sass that at a time made Carrey the most profitable actor on the planet, and for the most part it works. Directed and written by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa “I Love You Phillip Morris” pulls few punches and delivers both a hearty dollop of credible drama and crackerjack comedy.

The film opens by informing the audience that what they’re about to see is based on a true story. Steven Russell (Jim Carrey) is a policeman with a loving wife (Leslie Mann) and family but one very big secret; he’s gay. After enduring a car crash Steven comes out of the closet and seeks to build a life for himself elsewhere, but as costs run high Steven starts pulling Insurance fraud scams to match the bills. Eventually he’s caught and finds himself in Prison, leading to him meeting the reserved Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor). The pair instantly forms a friendship that blossoms into love, but they find themselves separated when Steven is released from jail. In a bid to live forever with his soul mate Steven starts feigning credentials as a Lawyer and aims to get Phillip excused from finishing his sentence.

Carrey and McGregor are outstanding in “I Love You Philip Morris”. It’s the former who dominates the show but McGregor does fine work in providing the film with a consistent emotional anchor. Together they make a satisfactory screen couple and are able to generate enough heart for the finale to resonate powerfully with the audience. Carrey manages to balance his wacky tendencies with a sampling of dramatic poignancy and he carries the film easily for its modest 100 minute duration. The actor uses every bone in his body to imbue Steven with the three dimensionality of a proper human being, succeeding royally with additional comedic aplomb. The romance at the story’s centre is made viable and engaging thanks to the skill of the two lead performers, who in truth deserve considerable recognition for their contribution here.

The story is directed with a dark and razor sharp mentality, though this is made perfectly digestible thanks to a helping of emotional sincerity. Requa and Ficarra attack the material with the right amount of swagger and verve but also make sure to inject plenty of warmth and likability into their movie. “I Love You Phillip Morris” doesn’t apologize for its aggressively controversial humour but rather revels in it, all the while retaining the sweetness that the best rom-coms bring to the table. Risqué dialogue and some hilarious sex scenes mean the picture won’t be to all tastes but it’s refreshing to see a movie this committed to an edgy sensibility.

The middle section is patchier than the other two acts and possibly carries on a little longer than it ought to, but at least the filmmakers direct energetically and deploy a truly memorable musical score. “I Love You Phillip Morris” is vaguely handicapped by a sluggish centre but overcomes it with a stunningly heartbreaking and hysterical finish. The plotting is also uncharacteristically smart though given the fact the film is based on “true events” it’s hard to know just how much of the twisty narrative the writers deserve credit for.

I had a genuinely great time with “I Love You Phillip Morris” and can easily recommend it as one of the best romantic offerings of 2010 hence far. It’s a hectic and fun caper that bites deep and swallows what it chews. Carrey and McGregor are awesome and create a rare chemistry in a movie that ultimately delivers a super time at the cinema. This is definitely worth checking out.

A Review by Daniel Kelly, 2010


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