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I Love You Phillip Morris
Time Out New York Project: Issue #792, December 2-8, 2010
Dirs. Glenn Ficarra and John Requa. 2009. R. 102mins. Jim Carrey, Ewan McGregor, Leslie Mann.
People who like their comedies pitch black (we’re talking midnight, no stars or moon) should get a kick out of the tale of Steven Russell (Carrey). He’s a defiant con artist and a raging homosexual, and he loves, loves, loves fellow prison inmate Phillip Morris (McGregor, relishing being the randy bottom boy). It’s a soulmate kind of love: Steven would walk on water for Phillip, but he’ll settle for forging some early-release papers, smooth-talking his way into a high-paying attorney gig and faking a debilitating disease just so he can get closer to his beloved. Did I mention the film’s inspired by actual events?
Writer-directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa have fictionalized several elements of Russell’s story, but they’ve given it a razor-sharp edge that you appreciate even when it’s clear these first-time filmmakers have bitten off more than they can chew. The aesthetics fluctuate between competent and amateurish, and the tone is wildly undisciplined. So it helps that Carrey and McGregor are both excellent at plumbing the depths of their intentionally broad characters. A scene where they dance to Johnny Mathis’s “Chances Are” manages to be both in-your-face discordant and heartbreakingly romantic — whatever the coarse jests, they never lose sight of their characters’ humanity.—Keith Uhlich
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