I Love You Phillip Morris: A Funny, Heartfelt Story About Love and Lies

13 12 2010

Whenever Jim Carrey stars in a movie that’s not a slapstick comedy requiring his over-the-top goof and amazing rubber face, I get nervous. The Number 23 anyone? However, he has some gems (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Truman Show), and I Love You Phillip Morris is one of them. Here’s the breakdown:

Based on the true story of serial con man Steven Russell, I Love You Phillip Morris chronicles the turbulent life of Russell (Jim Carrey), following him from con to con, which eventually lands him in prison. It’s there that Russell meets (and falls in love with) Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor), a soft-spoken Southern boy. But can true love exist amid so many lies?

The Monkey: Jim Carrey was quite the surprise. While his characterization of Russell borders on caricature at times, it fits the tone of the story well. He reveals just enough vulnerability without trying to hide the fact that, at his core, he’s a con artist. It’s this deceit that may unsettle some viewers…he’s a perpetual liar, practically addicted to scheming and fabrication, so how can the audience believe anything he says? This issue is further confused because Russell narrates the film via voice over. He’s the sole storyteller, and telling stories is what he does best.

While this may sound like a negative, I found it intriguing…the movie never tries to paint Russell as a traditional romantic or a stereotypical leading man. From his first (and rather forward) encounter with Morris, it’s clear to the audience that Russell does everything a little differently (including jobs, family, sex, relationships, etc.). In this way, Morris is in the same position as the audience – he knows Russell is a liar, almost incapable of a clean-cut existence, yet there’s something magnetic, unique, indismissable about him that captures Morris’ heart regardless.

The movie has some genuinely hilarious moments, mostly involving Russell’s many ridiculous charades and increasingly ingenious attempts to escape prison. The film’s climax was that surprisingly wonderful mix of heart-breaking hilarity, and actually managed to keep me guessing.

The Weasel: Ewan McGregor is a great actor, and he’s sufficient as the shy, demure love interest, but he didn’t add much else to the movie. This was probably more the script’s fault, but even during his dramatic scenes, McGregor failed to bring the weight and raw emotion that Carrey brought to his role. What was it about Morris that made Russell fall so head over heels? We’re never quite sure.

A wonderful story about flawed people in a flawed relationship. And I applaud the filmmakers for making a movie about love, loss and lies that just happens to feature gay characters, instead of a “gay movie.”

4 Death Stars out of 5

What do you think? Did you enjoy Carrey in his out-of-the-box role? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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2 responses

10 01 2011

Jim Carrey gives one of the nerviest, boldest performances of his sporadically brilliant career. With an even better film, that can actually keep up with him. Nice review, check out mine when you can!

10 01 2011

Thanks for the comment! Glad you liked the movie, too – I hope more people get a chance to see it! 🙂

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