I LOVE YOU PHILLIP MORRIS Sundance 2009 Review

     January 21, 2009

Written by Cady Heron

I Love You Phillip Morris is an unabashed love story. The fact that it’s about two men who meet in prison is of little consequence. The film stars Jim Carrey as Steven Russell, a jack-of-all-trades con-man, and Ewan McGregor as the object of his affection, Phillip Morris. Both give flawless, fearless performances in this beautiful, hilariously quirky movie. Now here’s where it gets weird: I Love You Phillip Morris is a true story.

Co-directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa also wrote the screenplay. To give you an idea of their sensibility, these are the same guys who wrote Bad Santa. There’s a lot of screwing and swearing; there’s perhaps an unprecedented number of dick jokes, but there’s also an undeniable sweetness. It is a love story, after all–the Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride of love stories.

The twists and turns inI Love You Phillip Morris take Carrey from bible-thumping small town cop to the flashy sidewalks of South Beach, from the tour guide of the prison yard to the wood paneled corner office of a swanky financial firm. Carrey moves effortlessly in and out of these very different worlds, his trademark rubber-faced antics softened into an authentic portrayal of this real human being. He hasn’t been this good since Eternal Sunshine, I dare say.

At the press conference for the film, Carrey, McGregor, and the filmmakers were asked repeatedly if the subject matter ever gave them pause. Overwhelmingly, the response was that Steven Russell’s story was so engaging and full of humanity, how could they not jump at the chance to make it?

Ficarra and Requa pointed out that the movie’s humor comes from the absurd situations, not from the sexual orientation of its characters. This is the key difference between a sad, pathetic movie like I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larryand a great film like I Love You Phillip Morris: the film doesn’t treat it’s characters lightly. They aren’t the joke, and there’s no condescension in sight. It’s a movie about real people, not caricatures–and I don’t mean that in the sense that the film is based on a true story. Oh, and it’s actually funny. REALLY FUNNY.

I Love You Phillip Morris also stars Leslie Mann and Rodrigo Santoro.

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