Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I Love You Phillip Morris

It All Began With...

While there has been much talk and discussion about the consideration to adopt some or most of the recommendations brought about by the Censorship Review Committee, it is films like this one that continue to suffer under the the current guidelines. While distributors may be bold enough to want to bring in such films for exhibition, even with the highest classification of the land, the film still has to be butchered unfortunately. Perhaps a time will come where R21 films need not go under the knife, and for a paying and discerning audience to know what they're in for basically, and that's to see two A-list Hollywood actors play gay characters convincingly in a refreshingly charming tale about the extent of the con one gets into for that elusive thing called love.

Supposedly based on a true story, no matter how the dramatization of the film will eventually make it quite an incredible tall tale to tell, akin to a scene where a joke got spun and retold so many times that it becomes so ridiculous, Steven Russell (Jim Carrey) seems to be the modern equivalent of Frank Abignale Jr, the protagonist of Steven Spielberg's Catch Me If You Can. Both are extremely convincing con men relying on their superb skills of social engineering, although Steven seemed to be one up in engineering most of his ruses from within a prison sale, posing as a lawyer, CFO, and even judge through his career in crime. It's actually quite a tragic character since his being is based on lies from the onset, cruelly told he's an adopted child, and has been playing various roles up until a near fatal accident woke him up to come out of the closet.

And the lure of the pink dollar, or the lack thereof, meant a life of crime and continued lying in order to fuel a flamboyant lifestyle for himself and his loved one. Jim Carrey hasn't been firing on all cylinders with recent roles, but this one takes the cake as he goes back to his dramatic roots from the likes of The Majestic or The Truman Show even, toning down the comedian within him, and amplifying a rarely seen versatility in what I felt is one of his defining roles. Matching him all the way is Ewan McGregor as the titular Phillip Morris, with whom Steven falls for in a jailhouse sexual bromance, as they demonstrate perfectly nuanced performances from their courtship ritual which is bound to elicit some laughs, but lesser so when they're a steady couple since McGregor's Morris had to disappear into the background for quite a bit.

Yes you read that right, I mentioned laughs. I'm not sure how gay folks will take to others laughing during such romantic scenes, because it's quite hard to keep a straight face watching both McGregor and Carrey romance each other in such convincing fashion, wondering for a moment how much work had gone into the crafting of their respective characters, especially for Jedi Master McGregor to go all effeminate in his demeanour that's not meant to belittle, nor deliberately going overboard with stereotypical actions, but adopting an approach that's somehow just right, and pat probably agreeable and acceptable as accurate from the intended community.

Those who think this is a gay film exploring gay issues need their head seriously checked as well, because Steven McVicker's story (based on his book) and from the challenges faced by the couple isn't glamourizing gay love at all, but highlighting, as humans, the same issues and problems faced with any heterosexual couple in a relationship will face, boiling it all back down to solid fundamentals such as trust and faith, in sticking to and delivering on promises made. Kitted with an excellent soundtrack all round, it is directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa's delivery that worked wonders as well, keeping the pacing tight, funny where it should be, and developing it in a way with crucial plot elements revealed in due course in time, unfolding the narrative in a manner always ready to pull the rug from under your feet, especially in the third act.

If you think you'll do anything for love, perhaps Steven Russell will put your efforts into perspective. Don't be a homophobe and avoid the film, because this will mean you're missing out on a great story, backed by acting that's second to none by the likes of Carrey and McGregor. Definitely highly recommended!

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