'I Love You Phillip Morris': But I'm lukewarm on the movie
A review of the based-on-a-true-love-story film, "I Love You Phillip Morris." It stars Ewan McGregor and Jim Carrey — who don't quite convincingly portray imprisoned lovers.
Seattle Times movie critic
'I Love You Phillip Morris,' with Jim Carrey, Ewan McGregor, Leslie Mann, Rodrigo Santoro. Written and directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa. 98 minutes. Rated R for sexual content including strong dialogue and language. Egyptian.
Like "All Good Things," also opening this week, "I Love You Phillip Morris" is based on a true story that's rather more intriguing than the movie itself. Steven Russell (Jim Carrey) was a Texas police officer and church organist before suddenly realizing that he was gay. Quicker than this movie's constant voice-over can speak, he's living it up in Florida, spending too much money, transforming himself into a con man and winding up in a state penitentiary — where he falls instantly in love with a soft-spoken fellow inmate (Ewan McGregor).
All of this happens early in the movie; the rest is Steven's elaborate (and frequently successful, at least for a while) plans for jailbreaks, more cons — including one so impressive it certainly had me fooled — and a constant attempt to build a life with Phillip. It's a fascinating story, but filmmakers Glenn Ficarra and John Requa ("Bad Santa") create a wildly uneven tone: It's satire, but not quite funny enough; a love story, but not quite sincere enough.
The movie has moments of real sweetness, like Steven and Phillip dancing together in their cell as a fellow inmate plays romantic music. Carrey's performance, though, is problematic; he throws himself into the role with vigor, and the result is something that would have to be shrunk down to be larger-than-life. (No one smiles bigger than Carrey on screen; it's often unnerving.) He's a hugely showy, self-conscious performer, and that almost works here for a self- conscious, ever-performing character, but it also serves to distance us from Steven — and to make us wonder exactly what the angelic Phillip sees in him.
True-life stories that don't make sense can be fascinating — life often doesn't make any sense whatsoever — but "I Love You Phillip Morris," trying hard, never quite sells it.
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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