There’s nothing worse than having to sit through a generic, predictable romantic comedy … especially when it also happens to star a comedian with a tired schtick. This is precisely what makes I Love You Phillip Morris such a startling discovery. Simply put, it’s the first Jim Carrey rom-com to perfectly suit his particular style of comedic genius. Too bad it never made it to theatres.
That’s right – Morris was completed and prepped for release in 2009 when US distributors decided to gum up the works, likely over the fact that it stars two of Hollywood’s leading men in a gay relationship. Thankfully, our own Cinema du Parc recently stepped up to offer the film a two-week run that reaches its conclusion this week, just as the flick hits DVD.
What makes Morris so remarkable isn’t as much the controversy around its release as the zany adventure at its core. Carrey stars as Steven Jay Russell, an orphan whose adopted parents “put some money in a brown paper bag and gave it to (his) momma in the parking lot”. From there, Russell grows up, gets married, starts a family and plays the organ at his local church … until a car accident changes his perspective.
He comes out of the closet, becomes a big spender and puts his tongue to use conning his way through day-to-day life. This lands him in prison, where he takes a shining to shy, impressionable Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor) and vows to focus his energies on getting them both out of jail so they can live the high life together.
And it just gets crazier from there. As he repeatedly (and ingeniously) fools security guards, judges and co-workers without ever calling it quits and gettin’ while the gettin’s good, Carrey captures the brilliance and tragedy of Russell as no other actor could. For the first time, his believability in a serious role is only enhanced by his innate goofiness and manic twinkle. As he winningly puts it, “sometimes you have to shave a little off the puzzle piece just to make it fit.” If there was ever a role that fit Carrey to a “T”, this is it.
First-time directorial team Glenn Ficarra and John Requa keep the pace brisk and bouncy for the most part, faltering only in the film’s emotional final act. It’s a shift that some won’t appreciate once the credits roll, especially in light of McGregor and Carrey’s decidedly stylized performances, but it’s all in service of the material, which – believe it or not – is based on a true story.
To say much more about the picture would really spoil the fun, and there’s plenty of that to be had. And if you find yourself caring a little about these odd inmates in their canary-colored jumpsuits, slow-dancing in a jail cell as guards attack another inmate in the background, don’t worry – there’s nothing gay about that.
I Love You Phillip Morris is now available on DVD.