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I Love You Phillip Morris(2009)
Steven Russell is a happily married police officer, churchgoer and upstanding citizen of his local community. One day, a car accident dramatically snaps him out of this average existence. Steven realises that he is gay and embarks on a flamboyant and extravagant new lifestyle. Drawing on his knowledge of crime from his days in the police force, he turns to conmanship to pay for his luxurious new life, and eventually finds himself in prison for fraud. There he falls in love with the sweet-natured and sensitive Phillip Morris, and channels his powers of ingenuity and daredevilry into his plan to escape jail and build the perfect life with Phillip.
For more about I Love You Phillip Morris and the I Love You Phillip Morris Blu-ray release, see I Love You Phillip Morris Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on March 18, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Directors: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
Writers: John Requa, Glenn Ficarra
Starring: Jim Carrey, Ewan McGregor, Leslie Mann, Rodrigo Santoro, Antoni Corone, Brennan Brown
» See full cast & crew
I Love You Phillip Morris Blu-ray Review
Catch him if you can.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, March 18, 2011
The state of Texas has the reputation for being about as no-nonsense as it gets in the United States of America when it comes to prosecution of crimes. A state that is at least perceived as being just as likely to go for broke with a lethal injection as it is to lock a criminal up in the first place, the Lone Star state would seem to be the least likely location ever for a long running series of cons, faked identities, and, most impressively, an incredible string of prison escapes. And yet the story of Steven Jay Russell (portrayed by Jim Carrey) as depicted in I Love You Phillip Morris is more or less based on fact, as incredible as it may seem. A one time small town Georgia cop, Russell came out, despite being married with a young daughter, and saw his life change drastically after he was involved in a freak car accident. Already obviously caught up, at least in certain ways, in a life of deceit and subterfuge, Russell decided to leave his wife and child and pursue an openly gay lifestyle, a lifestyle which is in the film rather humorously described as being "really, really expensive," leading to a rather improbable life of crime. That criminal activity saw Russell impersonate an equally improbable number of well trained professionals, including a Judge, a CFO of a major medical supply company, as well as assorted lesser professional types, in a certain sort of Catch Me If You Can scenario. That Catch Me connection takes on even more meaning because Russell does indeed come within the sometimes bumbling grasp of the long arm of the law, and is repeatedly incarcerated, only to break free time and again in one fairly hilarious escapade after another.
I Love You Phillip Morris is written and directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, the brains behind the often scabrously funny Bad Santa. This film, however, eschews the sort of outright politically incorrect and scandalously rude behavior of that erstwhile "holiday" film and takes instead a decidedly sweeter, even Hollywood-esque, approach toward its subject. Steven Russell is shown to be something of a psychological cipher, a man who is able to become just about anything he wants to at the drop of a hat. In a funny-disturbing flashback, we see young Steven being told that he's adopted, which sets him out on a decades' long quest to find his birth mother. Already he's discovering he's not who he thought he was, and that seems to be his psychological stumbling block for the rest of his life, at least as far as it's portrayed on film.
He takes a job as a policeman in order to raid the police databases for information on his birth mother, but once he tracks down the hapless suburban woman, he's left desperately disappointed. His seemingly happy, and very sexual, marriage to born again Debbie (Leslie Mann) is given a quick, glossy treatment here which features one of the more Bad Santa-ish punchlines of the film, when a raucous sex scene between Steven and an unseen partner turns out not be with Debbie, but with a male. Soon after, Steven is involved in a horrible car accident and decides that if his days are numbered, he's going to number them his way.
A stint in South Florida really starts the fraud ball rolling, due to Steven's extravagant lifestyle with his new boyfriend Jimmy (Rodrigo Santoro). He soon finds himself jailed, where in the rabble of an insanely sunny-yellow prison, he meets the man who would change his life, Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor). Steven and Phillip couldn't be more different. Steven is wise, conniving and in his own actually sweet-natured way, incredibly ruthless. Phillip is a sweet southern lad, a sort of gay Forrest Gump, a man-child who sees the good in everyone, but who is arguably not the sharpest knife in the drawer.
The romance, such as it is, between Phillip and Steven gives I Love You Phillip Morris one of the strangest central conceits in recent film history, even niche films with a putative "gay interest" angle. These are two inmates who manage to reach out and touch each other (figuratively and literally, believe me), even as the prison is in the midst of lockdowns, guards freaking out and other background noise that would seem to be more at home in one of those 1950's B-movies featuring all women inmate casts. But against all odds, the film manages to convey a sense of tender heartedness that helps to give it some passing emotional immediacy.
This is not an outright comedy, nor indeed an outright drama, and the film had a long and laborious post-production gestation where its rather uninhibited depiction of gay sex made it something of a hot potato for potential distributors. (As perhaps improbable as anything depicted in the film, I Love You Phillip Morris bears the imprimatur of Luc Besson, whose Europa financed the film). In fact the film's wavering tone may be more problematic than any actual salacious content, for there really isn't anything that is going to overly offend most modern day filmgoers. This is a movie which rises and falls on the strength of its performances more than any shock value in the plot or characters, and in that regard it succeeds admirably. Carrey manages to invest Steven with both sweetness and subterfuge, and for once his tics and mannerisms don't get in the way of a convincing, heartfelt performance. But the real revelation here is McGregor, bleached blonde and gracefully effeminate, in one of the most interesting and provocative performances of his career.
What really sets the two lead characters apart, even from other "gay jailbird" films like Kiss of the Spider Woman, is their devotion and, as odd as it may sound (especially within the context of them being convicts), their innocence. The film doesn't shirk from especially Steven's duplicitous nature, but it also manages to convey his essential humanity and the fact that he goes to insane (and illegal) lengths all in the name of love. I Love You Phillip Morris actually doesn't even get into some of Steven's more outrageous exploits, leaving an amazing (and true) story concerning a fatal disease as the apex of his life of crime. The film evidently underwent a larger than average amount of post-production tinkering, including some judicious editing to make the final product supposedly more audience friendly, but this gives the final product a sometimes disjointed feeling, including this final gambit of Russell's. The real Steven Jay Russell managed to go on for some time even after this peak of hubris, but the (edited) film, perhaps sensing its point had been made, leaves well enough alone before wending its way into one element that some viewers may in fact find objectionable, though for radically different reasons. The film utilizes some brief superimposed text to inform the viewer that due to Russell being such an embarrassment to then Governor George W. Bush, he was put in prison for the rest of his life, despite never having killed anyone. Justice may in fact be blind, but in Texas it packs heat and a fearsome punch.
I Love You Phillip Morris Blu-ray, Video Quality
I Love You Phillip Morris features an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.78:1 that will impress most viewers with its unexpectedly lemon yellow ambience within the confines of the Texas prison where Steven and Phillip meet and fall in love. But even if the saffron hues of that extended segment are beautifully saturated and very memorable, the entire film is candy colored and very bright, offering a nice variety of solid primary colors as well as cooler pastel hues once Steven moves to Miami. The image here is nicely sharp and very well detailed, with nice depth of field, natural looking grain structure, and excellent contrast. Even tricky items like closeknit fishnet stockings (and you'll have to wait to see who's wearing them) resolve nicely here, with no aliasing or other artifacting. The film is very occasionally on the dark side, including a couple of dimly lit bedroom scenes which were probably intentionally darkened to make the film more accessible for audiences squeamish about either straight or gay sex, but otherwise this is a very nice looking transfer that is filmic and wonderfully clear and precise appearing.
I Love You Phillip Morris Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Aside from the copious use of source cues and some fun immersive moments in the chase sequences, there's not a huge amount of "wow" surround activity in I Love You Phillip Morris' lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, but there really doesn't have to be. The film, while full of well placed ambient effects as well as the occasional jolt of LFE (be prepared for the sonically overwhelming car crash Steven is involved in), exists mostly in smaller scale dialogue scenes, and in that regard the track does very well, with fine and nuanced reproduction of quieter moments. The fact is, for such a character-driven story, there are surprising amounts of admittedly subtle surround activity, including lots of nice environmental effects in various outdoor scenes, and good use of directionality in a couple of fun sequences when the police descend on Steven. This is certainly not "summer blockbuster" material, but it's a very enjoyable mix that is cinematic without overtly drawing attention to itself.
I Love You Phillip Morris Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
I Love You Phillip Morris Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I Love You Phillip Morris' inherent sweetness elevates it above the faults of its disjointed final version, as well as the somewhat formless approach the filmmakers take toward a fascinating real life subject. Carrey and McGregor are wonderful together, and there are some scattered laughs here, despite the underlying premise of the film being more melancholic than funny. Recommended.
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I Love You Phillip Morris Blu-ray, News and Updates
• I Love You Phillip Morris Blu-ray Announced - January 24, 2011
Lionsgate Home Entertainment has announced I Love You Phillip Morris for Blu-ray release on April 5. This movie, based on a true story, stars Jim Carrey as an upstanding citizen who realizes he is gay, becomes a conman and falls in love with the titular Phillip ...
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