Sunday, April 17, 2011

I Love You Phillip Morris: Grade C


I Love You Phillip Morris (2010)

Jim Carrey, Ewan McGregor. Co-writer and director Glenn Ficarra.

Carrey is Russell, a Texas family man who suddenly comes out of the closet and moves to Florida where he can be openly and flamboyantly gay. He discovers that “being gay is really expensive,” so he resorts to identity theft and other scams. He ends up in prison where he meets Phillip (McGregor) and they fall in love.

Upon release, Russell vows to spring Phillip so they can be together, which he does, by implausibly changing some documents to win early release for Phillip. For finances, Russell turns to conning again, this time using unlikely impersonations along the line of Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can. That movie, like this one, was “based” on a true story, but that does not make either one of them believable. Russell is busted again, but escapes from jail, in yet another unconvincing impersonation, and that con-bust-escape cycle repeats about four more times until the movie just runs out of steam and ends, with Russell in jail.

On the plus side, Carrey is an enjoyable, if predictable actor. We’ve seen all his rubber face mug shots before, but they’re still funny. He has aged well. The dialog has a few really funny moments, but mostly the script is broad farce and gags. The movie helps normalize gay relationships, for example, by showing the two men dancing together romantically and hugging in bed. On the other hand, the romance between the men was never convincing, as it was in Brokeback Mountain, for example, so all you’re left with is some scenes of men touching, hugging, and kissing. That just does not add up to romance, so if the movie is trying to normalize gay relationships, it falls short.

There are some funny situations and lines, and Carrey is genetically funny, but the movie isn’t. It’s all predictable gags and implausible skits. Nor does the movie work as a drama, because the jailbreaks are not believable (whether they actually happened or not is irrelevant), and neither of the characters shows change, nuance, or development. McGregor gives a sensitive and courageous performance, but the character is so flat that we don’t care about him. Directing is good, costumes and sets outstanding. The music is very well selected, and cinematography is bright and clear. So the movie is worth watching, but ultimately not very entertaining.

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