A wacky dark comedy about a gay con man finding love.
So ever since Unwashed reviewed Philip Morris roughly a billion years ago (in internet time, anyway) I was curious about seeing it, partially because of Ewan McGregor and his infinite spring of Adorable and also because it seemed Jim Carey was finally going to maybe possibly be funny again (for real this time, guys!).
It took forever for this movie to find it's way down to my neck of the woods though. And even then, we had to go to this out-of-the-way back-alley, "hey buddy, wanna buy a film?" theater. Also pretty much the rest of the audience was made up of old gay men. Really old. Which was kind of weird because Jim Carrey's not that old, but go figure.
Er yeah, anyway, I can see why this film has such limited distribution. It's pretty gay. And not like camp gay (well, a little bit like that) but just...gay. It's also incredibly funny. That too. So this zany-ass tale (or alternatively, zany ass-tale), which is apparently based on a true story, stars Jim Carrey as Steven Russel, a good ol' Southern boy with a wife and kid who sings in church and is a cop and is secretly cheating on his wife with dudes. After a car accident he decides to stop living a lie and come out of the closet, telling his wife in the first of many, many times he ends up in the hospital.
Anyway, Steven jumps feet first into being a gay dude and also sort of misinterprets "gay" as "buy lots and lots and lots of expensive crap" and ends up resorting to insurance fraud to get by. And then goes to prison. Rather hilariously. And finally in prison, he meets his One True Love: Philip Morris, the painfully-naive-bordering-on-stupid-just-fell-off-the-dumbass-truck Philip Morris, played with wide-eyed adorableness by Ewan McGregor.
Some of the funniest scenes take place in the prison as Steven and Philip's love blooms, aided by a big black inmate named Cleavon, who plays music for them to dance to romantically while he swears at guards in the background. It's a dark-as-hell comedy and contrasting prison-yness against their relationship is light fare compared to the suicide gags that are played for laughs earlier on. Anyway, so to keep poor, oblivious Philip rich and happy once they get out of prison, Steven lies and cons his way to executive job positions and money fraud and so on. It becomes like Catch Me If You Can if Leonardo DiCaprio had had a boyfriend instead.
So Steven is eventually caught and sent back to prison, from which he escapes multiple times, each attempt more hilarious and brilliantly insane than the last. Throughout all of his musings on life, prison-escapes and hospital moments, Steven keeps come back to Philip, who he loves more than anything and keeps trying to win back.
So, about three-fourths of the way through, the movie, which meanders around quite a bit anyway, decides to become a drama, and expects you to be all invested in the characters and their relationship and stuff. And don't get me wrong, Carrey and McGregor have decent chemistry together and even though Carrey plays a con, their relationship is portrayed as sweet and real (which says a lot). But even then, I just couldn't get into the dark-comedy to dark-drama shift, it really doesn't gel with the rest of the movie and I think someone realized that and so, near the end, it whiplashes back to comedy long enough for you to leave the theater with a smile on your face.
I Love You, Philip Morris is a comedy that is supposed to make you feel uncomfortable for laughing at things, and it is good at that. What's funny is with all the prison escaping and fraud and stuff, this could have easily been some kind of thriller movie but instead it goes for black humor with a gooey romance center that is, surprisingly, played absolutely straight (heh, straight). Steven's love for Philip is genuine and Carrey really makes us feel that underneath his manic grin and conning ways, he actually cares about Philip, who being played by Ewan McGregor, is sort of adorable and likable to a fault. In short, it's criminal how little focus this movie is getting. It's funny (Jim Carrey, funny! How long has it been since that?), sharp, kind of fucked up and occasionally sweet. It loses focus near the end and kind of veers off into something else but overall it's a good movie that deserves to be seen by way more people.
I may not have loved I Love You, Philip Morris, but I liked it enough to give it three and a half catapults out of five.
Also, Simon correctly guessed the first banner quote of 2011 from The Brother's Bloom! Lemmee know your prize wish in the comments. This is Sugary Cynic saying "I have so many favorite camels, I frequently lose track" 'Night!
(Philip sees Steven leaving the house to go play golf with his boss)
Steven: "I know, it's for work"
Philip: "You can tell them you're gay, they can't fire you"
Steven: "I know! It's just, it's just this one time!"
Philip: "But GOLF? You might as well eat pussy"