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It's more unique than rare that a film affects me this much. The center, the emotional center of Phillip Morris has entered my subconscious in a way that I can't quite describe. It changed my perception of things. This is the first time I see two men kissing that made complete sense. I believe and understood like never before the "normalness" of the feeling. I liked "Brokeback Mountain" too but in that case, the torturous path of self-loathing that the Heath Ledger character goes trough, kept me at the periphery of the story like a sympathetic, moved spectator. Here I was part of it, of them. I'm sure Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor have a lot to do with it. No cheap shots, no low comedy. They are so true that you can't help loving them and rooting for them, flaws and all. I predict "I Love You Phillip Morris" will become the sleeper of 2009.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A packed screening at the Sunset 5 in Hollywood. The audience rewarded it with a heartfelt applause and me among them. A stunning surprise. The film starts by telling us the story is true, really, really true and that adds to the already enormous surprise. A con man in the vein of Leonardo Di Caprio in "Catch Me As You Can" that deep down is overwhelmingly honest. After years of being a wonderful father and husband he confesses to his wife that he's gay. He remains friends and close to his family. Ends up in jail and meets the love of his life. The love story between Jim Carrey and the astonishing Ewan McGregor is a first for the screen. Miles away from the wonderful Brokeback Mountain because here their love is public without borders. I totally believe in the flame that both of them ignite looking into each other's eyes. It is so intimate and real that I realized I had never seen it quite like this on the screen before. The fact that this film couldn't get a distribution is beyond me. I'm certain it's going to be one of the hits of 2009 and Jim Carrey as well as Ewan McGregor will get Oscar nominations. I saw the film on the 8th, 4 days ago and I've been craving to see it again ever since. Look at McGregor's face when he realizes this man really loves him. The tenderness is nothing short of breathtaking. As if all of the above wasn't enough "I Love You Phillip Morris" is hysterically funny. Highly and warmly recommended.
Certain images and moments of this stunning surprise come to visit me in the middle of my day. Phillip Morris has become someone to me. Someone I crave to revisit. Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor create, not merely a novelty but a revolution of sorts. They took what is still a taboo and gave it a human, a truly human face. The story seems a recreation of Spielberg's "Catch me if you Can" or Robert Mulligan's "The Great Impostor" but "I love You Philip Morris" has a life all of its own. Jim Carrey uses what made him famous to present us with a unique, true character, in all its complexities, contradictions and depth. It is a staggering performance that will make me look at this actor from now own under a new light and with oodles of renewed respect. Ewan McGregor comes back to renew his early promise with a character of such tender honesty that I'm sure will re-open the book of his career with a brand new, brilliant chapter.
There's really only one thing you need to ask yourself before you see
this movie: are you prepared to see Jim Carrey getting it on with Ewan
MacGregor? If so, you should definitely go.
The movie tells the true storyand trust me, you'll have trouble believing it's trueof Steven Russell, a gay man who just can't stop conning his way through life. He uses his extraordinary abilities to gain a variety of jobs, gets indicted for embezzlement, and wins the love of the titular Phillip Morris while the two are fellow inmates in prison.
"I Love You Phillip Morris" was written and directed by Glen Ficarra and John Requa, the same writing team responsible for "Bad Santa". Like "Bad Santa", this movie effectively balances humor and with some very dark themes, though I would say the overall tone is not nearly as bleak as that of the earlier movie.
The writers told the Nashville audience that when choosing material to include from Steve McVicker's nonfiction book, they decided they primarily wanted to tell the love story. They do so very successfully. You might even call this the perfect romantic comedy for people who hate traditional romantic comedies: it's homo- rather than hetero-oriented, it's non-fiction, and it features a somewhat off-kilter con man as the romantic lead. Sounds bizarre, sure, and yet all these elements come together to make a really entertaining movie.
For the most part Jim Carrey loses himself in the character of Steven Russell, delivering an effectively non-hammy (and non-Carrey) comic performance. MacGregor's Phillip Morris is also believably innocent, Southern, and wide-eyed. Nice supporting performances, such as Leslie Mann's as Russell's ex-wife Deb, round out the movie.
Much of the romance takes place in prison, and this creates many beautifully absurd scenes. The movie also has its fair share of sad moments, and contains a pretty clear message about social justice in Texas -- as did the book-- but this is kept mercifully subtle, underlying rather than overshadowing the story.
The directors said they hoped the movie would make spectators laugh, cry and think, and the Nashville audience seemed to do all three. There were a lot of laughs but some definite sniffles at the appropriate moments. At the Q&A, there was a fair amount of interest in the real story, and Ficarra, McVicker, and Requa were happy to oblige with further information.
Come to think of it, you may not have to worry about seeing the two leads have sex. Although the love scenes were kept technically PG, the directors were expecting a fight with the MPAA because of the homosexual content. That's a real pity, but I hope they win.
Now, don't be alarmed! Yes, it is a movie about gay love, which might
make some people feel uncomfortable, but please do see past that! Open
your mind and you will see that it is an amazing story about an amazing
man told in the most funny and sincere manner. I mean, wow! If I would
have a hat, I would take it off to honor these people who have been
brave enough and daring enough to take up this story and created such
an excellent movie. It is a some what sensitive topic. Well yeh, but in
the movie it is merely a background against which all the action takes
place.I believe that the world has grown and its views on homosexuality
are not as strict as they used to be some years ago. I hope that people
are not going to be hypocrites and, by saying that the subject of
men-to-men love is not acceptable to them, ignore this movie.
The movie is about a man named Steven Russell - a man who has never figured out who he really is and what is his place in this world. He has seen it all and done it all, but everything has been merely a preamble to what's coming. He meets his true love. He meets Phillip Morris. From then on he lives for this man. All he does is for the soul purpose of making his other half happy and that is what gets him into trouble. It happens just because there are no limits to what he would do for the man he loves. Also, his imagination and creativity is endless. There are not as many people who would do the same for those who we love.
Though it is very funny, featuring fresh humor which is based more in the situations than actual jokes and funny one-liners, it is just as sad. It is even tragic. I guess that is the way with life: after flying high there comes a low fall. Since the movie is based on actual events, there is no alternative ending. But I want to say: let's not get sad! Let's look at this movie as a celebration of life and love. It is a wonderful, but in the end heart-breaking love story.
To conclude I want to point out the outstanding performance of the two main actors Ewan McGregor and Jim Carrey. I don't have a large enough vocabulary to describe how much I enjoyed it. For Carrey it is not a typical part, but he does wonders with it. I wish we would see him more often in movies like this (I mean smart and deep). His comedy experience brings new quality to the drama genre. However he is a first rate actor, who makes us laugh and cry, and that is why we love him no matter what movie he is in. McGregor is equally good. The fact is they both make us believe when we watch the movie and that is the testimony of how great they really are.
Just when I thought Jim Carrey couldn't surprise me anymore, even if he tried...bang! "I Love You Phillip Morris" Here Jim Carrey creates the most complex and complete character of his career. A bisexual co-man of all things. An amoral guy who finds love and when I say "finds" we see him finding it. The romantic entanglement of Carrey and McGregor is a real first because we, even the ones who don't quite get the same sex thing, gets it. I saw the love between this two men and I believed it. "Brokeback Mountain" was easier to believe because the tragedy filled with deceit and self loathing fit perfectly with what I, and many others I suspect, believe that kind of union may involve. Here I saw romance in Ewan McGregor's eyes. His disbelief that somebody loves him is out of "The Nights Of Cabiria" - I will certainly see this again.
I Love You Philip Morris is a film that has a clear sense of warmth and is supported by superb performances. In terms of narrative, it is a romp, but one that takes some surprising (if not dark) turns. The film is not lightweight and tells the story of an inveterate conman. However, the love story, that between Steven Russell (Jim Carrey) and Philip Morris (Ewan McGregor), is touching, passionate and totally convincing. But while Carrey does (inevitably, one should suppose) teeter on the manic in places, it is McGregor who is the film's real revelation.With his blond hair and softly-spoken Southern American accent, McGregor easily gives one of the best performances I have seen him offer and represents a highly credible source of Russell's desire. The romantic and sexual relationship between the two central characters is not glossed over, and the film is all the better for it. Ultimately, I Love You Philip Morris ranks as a fine piece of drama that also works as a comedy, albeit it a bittersweet one. All in all, if you haven't seen it, then see it!
Continuing my MIFF reviews, I saw this last week with a packed house at
Firstly, it has to be said that it's a tragedy that this film's general release has been such a stifled process. The entertainment value of this picture, its expert construction and superb performances cannot be denied.
Carrey turns in what is possibly his best performance in a decade. It's bizarre, the way that his signature antics actually enhance rather than diminish the dramatic aspects of this film, based loosely on real life events. In fact, for me, the movie trumps The Truman Show as Carrey's true coming of age as a performer of depth. Ewan McGregor is equally astonishing as Phillip Morris - you'd swear you were watching the kind of unique romantic chemistry between two actors that arrives very rarely in cinema, and virtually never between two A-listers playing gay lovers; but the love story is only a foundation for what emerges as a kinetic, superbly told comedy-drama about the real life exploits of con man and recidivist prison escapee Steven Jay Russell.
Directors/writers Glenn Ficarra and John Requa expertly handle the tensions of comic and dramatic performance and also prove to have a masterly touch with the frenzied action sequences. Bit parts are cast beautifully. You can see the attention to detail and craft in this movie.
It can only be assumed that the gay context of this film has cost it it's commercial potential in the eyes of distributors, because everything else about it spells box office success. Apparently, it will finally have a limited release in the US in October this year, with the potential of expansion.
Without spoiling any of the twists of the film's detailed series of events, the film succeeds at beautifully hijacking audience expectation time and again. Just when you think you've got the film pinned for being predictable, suddenly it flips on you with a wry smile as if to say, "I knew what you were thinking".
I'm not sure how close the producers stuck to the facts, but it scarcely matters. If 5% of this narrative is true, it would be amazing in itself. I would be happy if the film was complete fiction.
It's a wonderful, assured comedy and deserves wide commercial exploitation.
A few months ago I put my name down for a preview of "I Love You Phillip Morris" I RSVP with plenty of time but the day before the screening I was called and informed that they had overbooked so I was dropped off. Strange I thought because some people I know had RSVP'd much later than me and they were included in the screening. Why? Because I was born in 1940 and the other were people in their 30's. One of them took me has his guest and surprise, surprise I was the one who loved the movie and has become since then a promoter of the film, so much so that people call me, me! to ask me "Do you know when it will be released? I have to tell the marketing experts that they got the age thing completely wrong and discrimination of this kind doesn't serve the film very well at all. Now, that out of the way, let me talk about this extraordinary film. A true story no less. A con-man searching for love and a romance like no other. Jim Carrey is superb and I bet that, if producers and distributors resolve their nonsense, he'll be a strong contender at the Oscars 2011. He injects his character with the kind of truth I hadn't seen before in a Jim Carrey performance. Much more than in "Man On The Moon" or "The Truman Show" The character allows him to be the great funny man that he is and at the same time there are layers and layers of new inedited brilliance. And if that wasn't enough, Ewan McGregor! A masterful portrayal of someone finding love in the most unexpected man in the most unexpected place. The scene of them falling in love has become one of my favorites. Now, you marketing people, will you let me in next time?
I love You Philip Morris is an exceptional film, not because of the
script, acting, or filming all of which are above average but simply
because it seriously tries to take a homosexual relationship and show
it as a heterosexual one and does so without the squirm.
Maybe the world still ain't ready (this is most under-reviewed of any Carey film on IMDb) but it is a good film.
With strong elements of humor, con tricks, prison, and a heart that is genuine, it is a very entertaining film.
Hopefully it is a ground-breaking film. It is enjoyable , has real depth, and you would need to be mean spirited indeed to find it repugnant in any way.
Go see, then complain.
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