31 May 2009 | amanda-694
Funny, Sad and True! (from May Nashville preview)
There's really only one thing you need to ask yourself before you see this movie: are you prepared to see Jim Carrey getting it on with Ewan MacGregor? If so, you should definitely go.
The movie tells the true story—and trust me, you'll have trouble believing it's true—of Steven Russell, a gay man who just can't stop conning his way through life. He uses his extraordinary abilities to gain a variety of jobs, gets indicted for embezzlement, and wins the love of the titular Phillip Morris while the two are fellow inmates in prison.
"I Love You Phillip Morris" was written and directed by Glen Ficarra and John Requa, the same writing team responsible for "Bad Santa". Like "Bad Santa", this movie effectively balances humor and with some very dark themes, though I would say the overall tone is not nearly as bleak as that of the earlier movie.
The writers told the Nashville audience that when choosing material to include from Steve McVicker's nonfiction book, they decided they primarily wanted to tell the love story. They do so very successfully. You might even call this the perfect romantic comedy for people who hate traditional romantic comedies: it's homo- rather than hetero-oriented, it's non-fiction, and it features a somewhat off-kilter con man as the romantic lead. Sounds bizarre, sure, and yet all these elements come together to make a really entertaining movie.
For the most part Jim Carrey loses himself in the character of Steven Russell, delivering an effectively non-hammy (and non-Carrey) comic performance. MacGregor's Phillip Morris is also believably innocent, Southern, and wide-eyed. Nice supporting performances, such as Leslie Mann's as Russell's ex-wife Deb, round out the movie.
Much of the romance takes place in prison, and this creates many beautifully absurd scenes. The movie also has its fair share of sad moments, and contains a pretty clear message about social justice in Texas -- as did the book-- but this is kept mercifully subtle, underlying rather than overshadowing the story.
The directors said they hoped the movie would make spectators laugh, cry and think, and the Nashville audience seemed to do all three. There were a lot of laughs but some definite sniffles at the appropriate moments. At the Q&A, there was a fair amount of interest in the real story, and Ficarra, McVicker, and Requa were happy to oblige with further information.
Come to think of it, you may not have to worry about seeing the two leads have sex. Although the love scenes were kept technically PG, the directors were expecting a fight with the MPAA because of the homosexual content. That's a real pity, but I hope they win.