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  • I Love You Phillip Morris
    • I Love You Phillip Morris
    • Runtime:102 min
    • Release Date:2014-12-22 11:28:45
    • Director: Glenn Ficarra
    • Genres: Comedy, Drama
    • Studio:
MOVIE REVIEW:I Love You Phillip Morris
Auhtor:

   

All the gay haters are out in full force in their reviews of this film.
It is NOT a commentary on ALL gay people! If a film features a French
con artist, do we automatically assume that the film is suggesting that
ALL French people are con artists? No. So why, in a film with a con
artist who happens to be gay, do viewers assume this implies that all
gay people are con artists?

If this particular character says that "being gay is expensive" he's
only expressing his own point of view. He's not suddenly the official
representative of all gay people. If a female character who loves to
shop and buy expensive clothes says "being a woman is so expensive", is
she speaking for all women? We know she isn't! Being gay might be
expensive for Steven Russell because of his lifestyle choices (and I'm
not talking about being gay, which ISN'T a lifestyle choice!). He
chooses to spend a lot of money on high-end crap. Nobody in the film is
suggesting he represents all gay people.

Nor is Phillip Morris's character meant to represent another
"stereotype". Some people are gentle and naive. Some gay men are gentle
and naive. So what? People come in all shapes, sizes, nationalities,
races, genders, personality qualities, etc. Phillip Morris happens to
be a sweet, gentle, trusting man. Does this mean the filmmakers are
suggesting that all gay men are this way? No.

These characters represent Steven Russell and Phillip Morris. As soon
as there is a gay element in a film people start screaming "offensive",
"stereotype", "disgusting", etc. Okay, so they're narrow-minded,
intolerant and have limited world views. Fine. Read up on a film a
little before going to see it if you find sexual orientation other than
your own "offensive".

This isn't a "gay" film. It's a story about a con man (who happens to
be gay) and his experiences. The story would still be interesting if he
weren't gay, but for some reason that's all some people can focus on.

Sorry you feel threatened and disgusted by gay characters. Grow up.
This is 2011. I would think by now that who people love or what they
get up to in bed with their adult consenting partner would be a
non-issue.

The film was entertaining with a good performance by Carrey and a truly
endearing one from Ewan McGregor. I enjoyed it.

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*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The problem with "based on a true story" movies, especially ones that
are based on the lives and times of crooks is that it is never clear
wear the "based on" starts and the "true story" ends – or vice versa..
After all, if you're telling the story of a man of lies, then why
should you stick to the truth, especially if the material is
far-fetched and the main character is a stranger to reality. If the
protagonist is a habitual liar then there is everything to gain by
making him a lovable scamp who does no real harm and not have him come
off as an utterly despicable creep with no respect for the integrity of
the trusting fools who cross his path.

And therein lies the central problem with I LOVE YOU PHILLIP MORRIS:
not only does the film have to sell us a potentially likable
ticket-selling hero, but it also wants to serve up a politically
correct gay love story which serves as the main motivation for the
characters' actions. PHILLIP MORRIS is based on the criminal escapades
of Steven Jay Russell, whose activities bounced him in and out of
prison for a couple of decades. And it could have just told of his
various scams, downplaying all sex entirely. But the film rather
pointedly highlights his relationship with Phillip Morris, his
mild-mannered cell mate who he drags into his life of crime — making
it play like a gay love story with a criminal subtext. Whether the film
is a gay love story, which got made because it has a comic criminal
subplot, or was a caper movie that had to have the gay plot included,
is irrelevant. But the film is being sold because of its gay element
and almost didn't get released because of the romantic plot. Yet when
Steve's first wife, an ultra-Christian follower, asks if there is a
connection between his being gay and his being a criminal, she is
stared at because of her seeming stupidity, even though that seems to
be a point the film itself is trying to make. Is it, just as Steve
argues, that taking up a life of crime was necessary because being gay
is so expensive? So, is there a connection between the two sorts of
deviant behaviors? And for that matter, is Phillip really so naive that
he fails to realize that Steve is involving him in his scams? And was
George W. Bush actually involved in bringing Steve to justice or is
that a dimwitted way to pump a bit it heavy-handed politics into the
story, a back-handed, last minute attempt at painting a scoundrel like
Russell as a victim of homophobia? Little elements pop up throughout
the film raising questions as to their own veracity and casting shadows
on the honest of the story as a whole.

There is a clear indication that as Steve, Jim Carrey is making a rare
attempt at playing a character role and not just hamming it up as a
comic character. Yet despite his best effort, his protagonist never
quite reflects a reality. His southern accent as Russell isn't too
broad and may be even quite realistic, but in the end it seems fake.
While on the other hand, Ewan MacGregor's softer, less forced accent
may not be as authentic, but his Phillip rings true. The two acting
styles don't quite blend convincingly; their love affair does not
convince. The film's frequent attempts at comedy don't gel with its
obvious attempts at romance and poignancy, so the whole point of the
film doesn't come clear. Is there genuine romance in Steve and
Phillip's relationships or is Phillip being used as a pawn and being
owned as a pretty young object? The scenes that attempt to establish
the romance are clearly sincere, but they are undercut by the bumbling
tries to make fun of the conman's broadly humorous con jobs. And the
melodramatic efforts to play AIDS for both laughs and tears only leave
a nasty taste. The various elements and contrasting intents do not
blend smoothly, or even try to. Thus, you are left at the end with a
curiously unsettling feeling for what the characters had for motives or
how you are supposed to feel for them. Is Steve Russell just a career
criminal or is he/was he motivated by feelings of abandonment as a
child or was he an confused outsider with no real identity because of
his homosexuality.

And should we even care? It would seem that the gay angle is little
more then an excuse he uses to justify living an amoral life — just as
it is a flimsy excuse for making the movie at all. His targets may seem
to be part of the straight world (bigoted businessmen and insurance
companies) but he also targets innocent people (gay lovers and his
ex-wife and little daughter who he abandons, supposedly to lead a more
honest life as a gay man). In the end, he just seems to be a habitual
liar with no desire to keep his repeated pledge to lead a decent life.
If the film had been played as an out and out comedy — a typical Jim
Carray farce — it might have worked. But every lie Steve tells is
aimed at the audience as well. There are some laughs scattered through
out PHILLIP MORRIS, but there is little joy.

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"Nobody talks about this, but being gay is really expensive." Steve
Russell (Jim Carrey)

Moreover, not many talk just about being gay either in films, but I
Love You Phillip Morris does an admirable job of presenting a former
straight man, Steve Russell, who finally lets it all hang out to allow
his gayness be fulfilled. With the boyish Phillip Morris (Ewan
McGregor), it's easy to see why Steve falls in love.

In fact, if Frank Abignale (Leonardo DiCaprio) in Spielberg's Catch Me
if You Can were gay, this film would be a companion piece. Like
Abignale, Russell impersonates across the spectrum of professions: CFO
of a health care company, lawyers, doctor, and an FBI agent to boot. As
it is, both characters are con men assuming false roles to move their
agendas more quickly. Abignale in his film is far more interesting and
amusing than Russell, who tends to emote too often about love and fate
with fewer costume changes, making a meandering, dull adventure about a
newly gay man falling in love and going in and out of jail.

It took two years to get this film into theaters, for good reason,
because Hollywood was probably reluctant to invest in such an openly
gay film, revealing some bigotry even in this new century. As a
caper-con film, it is mildly amusing. As a film about gay romance, it
is about as steamy as The Tourist, where mega wattage stars Johnny Depp
and Angelina Jolie create little heat. It's hard to believe the writers
of the outrageously funny Bad Santa could have made this film.

"Love is the reason I'm layin' here dyin,'" says Steve from his
hospital bed, and he could be talking as much about his loving family
as his lover. So the film does a credible job taxiing between straight
and gay scenes but without a hold on either the love or the caper.

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