By JAMES MELVILLE
Apparently, Plan “Only Review Halloween Movies For a Month” has been scrapped for Plan “Review Whatever’s In My Netflix Queue.” Then again, I guess prison’s pretty scary. There’s a fair amount of prison in the movie. Oh, and the gays. The movie is about a gay conman. Those gays, man. Frightening. They’re…pushing marriage…down…a slippery…hill? Slope? Does that sound right? Eh, f*ck it. We all know what the truly terrifying thing is, here: Zombies. Hey, remember all those times when I did filler columns about Movies That Would Have Benefitted From the Addition of Zombies? Good times. I’ll probably do another one before long. And before you say anything, I’m allowed to reminisce. I’m a senior. Also, never start a sentence with “and.”
By they way, all that rambling on about homosexuals? It was a joke. I don’t think they’re scary at all. You know who did? Hollywood. It took forever for this movie to get released, apparently because Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor—lovers in the film—might have infected impressionable 17+ year-old Americans with The Terrible Gayness. True story.
I Love You, Phillip Morris (2009):
The Plot: When Steven Russell (Jim Carrey), a happily married policeman gets in a serious car accident, the brush with death prompts him to live life to the fullest. He comes out of the closet, and embraces an extravagant lifestyle in Miami. When he turns to illegal means—fraud, mostly—to support this lifestyle, he ends up in prison. There he meets Phillip (Ewan McGregor) a soft-spoken, sweet man with whom Steven quickly falls in love. Phillip reciprocates, and when the two are released from prison, Steven returns to his life of crime so he can support their life together. When these cons repeatedly land him in prison, he makes increasingly daring escapes, all for love.
I Love You, Phillip Morris is based on a true story. No, really, it is. There’s a person who did all this stuff. You can read about him on the Internet. Cracked.com included Steven Russell on a list of “The Seven Craziest Things Ever Done to Get Laid.” So there’s that. “Based on a true story” has never been much of a selling point for me, but I guess it’s kind of neat.
The film is a whimsical dark romantic comedy. How does that work? Well, have kinda heavy things happen, but don’t give any of them much emotional resonance. That’s how. This is more a romantic comedy than a crime movie. The crime, though a huge part of Steven’s life and character, isn’t ever really dealt with in a way that allows it to be taken seriously. Sure, he goes to prison a lot, and sure, that means he doesn’t get to see Phillip sometimes, but the film works so hard to maintain a light-hearted tone that it sacrifices most of its dramatic weight. A little levity can be nice, maybe even a lot. But have too much, and the movie just becomes fluff. You could stuff pillows with Phillip Morris. Today’s Lesson: Sometimes, there are better ways to give characters emotional depth than by having them cry and talk about their feelings. Actually, it’s almost always better not to do that. People look stupid when they cry.
That having been said, I did enjoy watching this film. It’s well directed, and the soundtrack, written by DeVotchKa’s Nick Urata, fits the film’s tone perfectly. Look up the track “Faking Death” on YouTube, for an idea of the flavor. Combine that with some smooth editing, and you’ve got the ingredients for a very pleasant indie movie.
As for the actors, both Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor give very enjoyable performances. I’m not usually a fan of Carrey’s comedy work, but he’s dialed down a bit here. Not anywhere near the level of Eternal Sunshine, mind you. Think more along the lines of The Truman Show, but with a little more, I don’t now, Yes Man? You get what I mean. The point is, he’s a palatable dose of manic and dramatic.
Ewan McGregor is freaking adorable in as Phillip. I wouldn’t mind cuddling with him. He seems like a good cuddler. He isn’t given much to do, though. He’s pretty much just expected to be sweet, act as Love Interest For Protagonist, and cry a bit. Nothing too taxing, but he is, as always, appealing.
As much as I enjoyed watching Phillip Morris at the time, there really isn’t much to it. Then again, maybe I’ve been a little too harsh. In the end, it’s quirky, it’s sweet, and it’s funny, but there’s just something missing.
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