Starring: Jim Carrey, Ewan McGregor, Leslie Mann, Rodrigo Santoro
Director: Glenn Ficcara, John Requa
Writer(s): John Requa, Glenn Ficcara
Cinematography: Xavier Perez Grobet
Original Score: Nick Urata
Running Time: 102 Mins.
Jim Carrey is an actor often disregarded for playing largely to his strengths (comic mugging, physical comedy), something which seems a touch unfair seeing as firstly he does what he does exceptionally well, and secondly has not simply gone for the mainstream comedy, tackling those films that deal with both topical, controversial and *gasp* intelligent subject matter, it is just unfortunate that the film’s Carrey finds his audience with are the mainstream ones whilst the other’s go largely unnoticed, which is exactly where I Love You Phillip Morris is almost certain to fall, despite the valiant efforts of those attempting to market the film.
To categorise I Love You Phillip Morris imagine a rom com, featuring a gay couple, with shades of Catch Me If You Can, you might just be a tenth of the way there. Proving to be a film that defies classification is no bad thing, it screams originality and considering the lack of it around creatively it’s a blessing, or can be unless your film mistakes a turgid mess of ideas for an original product, see last years The Box being a fine example of that! But I digress, this is a fine example of something left-field working exceptionally well despite some minor sticking points.
Playing Steven Russell, in a tale based unbelievably on real events, Carrey is excellent, one would assume that in playing a gay man (and a con man taking on the guise of policeman, lawyer etc. as well as being in and out of prison!) the actor would use this as a fine way of over-acting and mugging his way through, putting on the most OTT camp performance ever? Not so. He is, while far from restrained, a master at work balancing the frailties of Steven’s character along with the funnier more outlandish aspects while never sinking to the level of parody of camp-ness all to often exhibited in the portrayal of gay characters. Similarly Ewan McGregor provides the film with its heart as the titular Phillip Morris he is a character required to do little other than serve as the object of Steven’s affection whilst at once showing great fragility and allowing us to empathise with his eventual dismay at Stevens actions and lifestyle.
Not afraid to tackle “big” issues, corruption, true-love, AIDS, prison abuse, it is a film that does so respectfully, in many cases with great poignancy yet they never felt hammered home, Precious this is not! Instead what you get are ideas subtly intertwined into the plot, and while some things are used to comedic effect they are never reduced to such and the seriousness of the issues are always respectfully dealt with in a way that can only be described as hilariously conscientious!
Aside from characterisation most are likely to be bowled over by the plot, rather episodic in structure the through line of Steven’s relationship with Phillip is enough to hold it together as he plans and executes scam after scam as a con man to rival Frank Abagnale, except the ends to which he commits each con are for a rather different purpose and depth is always found in the outcome rather than as a catalyst for cheap laughs meaning that upon the film’s close you are left with the experience of genuine funny moments and something to consider, proving once again that Carrey, when presented with the right material, is as capable as any in the acting stakes.
I Love You Phillip Morris presents us with yet another example of what a fine actor Jim Carrey is, perhaps because of rather than despite his comedic roots he is able to inject both compassion and truth into a film whose plot and scripting are funny enough without comedic mugging.