Monday, 8 October 2018

Mubi Monday: I Love You Phillip Morris (2009)

Also . . . there's a horror movie review coming along later. Not going to miss a day here just because MUBI hasn't yet put up any genre offerings.

Co-directed by John Requa and Glenn Ficarra, who also wrote the script based on the book by Steve McVicker, I Love You Phillip Morris is a fantastic comedy, an amusing look at the life of a con man, and an astounding true story.

Jim Carrey stars as Steven Russell. Steven seems to have his life in order. He's a police officer, he plays the organ at church, he has a loving wife and two daughters. He's also very much gay, something that he keeps a secret until a bad car crash leads him to realise that he cannot go on living a lie. Well, he cannot go on living THAT lie. All other lies are fine as long as they allow him to spend lots of money he otherwise wouldn't have to treat himself, and loved ones, to a lavish lifestyle. This leads him to prison, which leads to him meeting Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor). And so begins a series of audacious cons as Steven aims to spend as much time as possible with his new love, whether in prison or enjoying their freedom.

I don't want to spoil things for anyone who hasn't seen this movie, suffice to say that the biggest con that Russell pulls is as incredible as it is reliant on some very human oversights/errors and it's the focus of the third act, quite rightly so. The script takes great pleasure in sprinkling events with a few little rug-pulls here and there, making it easier to accept some of the more unbelievable true details of the story.

Requa and Ficarra do a good job with the direction too, keeping things light and upbeat (helped by a wonderful score from Nick Urata that often tiptoes very close to emulating "Aquarela do Brasil" by Ary Barroso). There may be no such thing as a victimless crime but this is a lot easier to enjoy thanks to the targets picked by Russell, usually either financial corporations or those in positions of power in the US penal system.

Carrey is on top form in the central role, flying through most of the scenarios with a mixture of optimism, charm, and bullshit. McGregor is also very good, acting very sweet and making it easy to see why the relationship between the two could blossom so quickly. Leslie Mann does well in her small role (she's the loving wife who somehow doesn't outright resent and hate her husband when she is told the truth about him), Rodrigo Santoro is fun as Carrey's first main male partner, and Antoni Corone and Brennan Brown are two businessmen who enjoy Carrey making money for them without noticing that he's taking a decent amount for his own account.

As much about the things people will do for love as it is about someone who seems unable to stop living a life that requires theft, lies, and fraud, I Love You Phillip Morris is an entertainingly light treatment of material that could have easily been dark and painful. You may think it's the wrong approach, but I happen to think it works perfectly.


You can buy the shiny disc here.
Americans can buy it here.
Or you can click on those links and buy whatever the hell you like.

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