Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr Viber
Trending On Empire
The Big 2015 Movie Preview
The 50 Best Films Of 2014
Review Of The Year 2014
Roar Power
Jurassic World unleashed on iTunes
Halo 5 Guardians
The Master Chief returns

Back to Words From The Wise homepage

Sundance Part Five: I Love You Phillip Morris
Posted on Monday January 19, 2009, 17:05 by Damon Wise

Going into I Love You Phillip Morris (pictured) I wasn't sure what to expect. I'd seen the trailer, which made it look kind of garish, with Jim Carrey as a cop who leaves his strait-laced religious wife to become a flamboyant Florida homosexual and resorts to fraud to finance his lifestyle. I was worried that I'd seen the whole movie in microcosm, but I was surprised to find that the trailer pillages quite a lot of scenes from the opening half-hour, making them appear to be excerpts from a wacky, outrageous comedy, which, from the makers of Bad Santa, it sometimes is. But Phillip Morris is a very unusual beast, and it's hard to say why without spoiling things. It's a film that pulls you in but never quite takes you over the top, as you feel it should. It might even underwhelm you, but the final reveal (if you haven't read the book) explains the directors' coyness. This is a staggering true story that leaves you quite simply flabbergasted. And you can't even say you weren't warned; the most important line in the film is the opening credit. “This really happened,” it says in earnest. “It really did."

At the centre, as you'd imagine, is a powerhouse performance by Carrey as Steven Russell. Nearly killed in a car crash, he vows to life his life his own way and embrace his so-far hidden gayness. “I'm a fag,” he mutters on the stretcher, “Big fag: that's what they'll call me.” Leaving his wife and kids, he moves to Florida with his new boyfriend (Rodrigo Santoro), but his crime spree gets out of hand, the police are involved and his lover leaves him. Russell goes to the penitentiary, where he meets the fey, blond Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor), and the two fall in love. Or rather, Russell becomes besotted. Everything Morris wants, Morris gets, and when Russell pays for an annoying fellow inmate to be beaten up, Morris sobs, “That's the most romantic thing anyone's even done for me.” The gay scenes are surprisingly strong and upfront, making this a difficult prospect for Carrey's mainstream following, but they're necessary because this is a film about love and infatuation. Russell's love for Morris sends him back to his old ways, and from here the film becomes a whirlwind farce in which the clearly intelligent Russell is forever a step ahead of, or a step behind, the law. Deceit is in his DNA, and after a while it's kind of scary.

McGregor plays the love interest with charm and appeal, but this is Carrey's show, and I can't help wondering how the gay press will react to his performance. There's a grotesque aspect of Russell, a ruthless streak that, despite the gifts, the chocolates and champagne he showers on the diabetic Morris, suggests a man with a serious screw loose, not just an incurable romantic. I won't tell you what happens in the end, but it really bowls a strike, turning a weird romcom into something more twisted and perhaps even important, in the most serious sense of the word. As Hollywood prepares for this year's Oscars, I wouldn't be surprised if next year there's a slot for Carrey and this astonishing film. Assuming, that is, the Academy can accept their favourite rubber-faced funnyman as not just gay but, as Russell puts it, “gay, gay, gay, gay, gay”.

Login or register to comment.



1 bojangles1971
Posted on Tuesday January 20, 2009, 10:30
Who are you?

2 richCie
Posted on Thursday January 22, 2009, 21:53
after your 23 picks from Sundance this was somehwere around 2 ooh's (to adapt your own system of hype, but it's now shot up to; well... if you'll allow it, 4 oohs!

i'm not the biggest fan of Carrey, but The Truman Show showed he had potential for drama and this sounds like it could be the proof (havent seen Eternal Sunshine....)

looks like i've beaten Acho to posting a reply first!

Log in below, or register to post comments
Remember Me:


LFF 2015: Tangerine
By Mani maran

London Film Festival 2014: Fury And Difret
By Phil de Semlyen

London Film Festival 2014: Mommy, Song of the Sea, A Little Chaos
By Helen O'Hara

London Film Festival: Whiplash, Son Of A Gun, Foxcatcher
By Helen O'Hara

London Film Festival 2014: Testament of Youth, Ping Pong Summer, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them
By Helen O'Hara


London Film Festival: Wild, Salvation, Leviathan
"That's interesting, because I noticed The Salvation had one of the buzziest audience reactions out o"  jencat
Read comment

Christoph Waltz will win an Oscar
"although its old now :(, of course he was gonna win it :), one of the many idols of why i wanna be a"  SONYA ALALIBO
Read comment

Basterds Blog
"I know this is old as hell now, but I wanted to mention on here how great this is. I've read this ar"  seventhrib
Read comment

Sundance Part Six: In The Loop
"Hello, everybody, the good shoping place, the new season approaching, click in. Let¡¯s<"  aassdd
Read comment

Venice 09: The Bad Lieutenant!
"Just watched the film and thought it was great. Did not expect that ending that made the film so muc"  Zimbo
Read comment


Sundance Part Six: In The Loop

The Times BFI London Film Festival Preview

Basterds Blog

Chris Hewitt Of The Year Award!!!!

The Wrestler

Back | Print This Page | Email This Page | Back To Top

Subscribe now and save up to 63%
Print, Digital & Package options available Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire Digital Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  Digital Edition  |  Podcast  |  Magazine Contact Us  |  Empire FAQ  |  Subscribe To Empire  |  Register
© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd  |  Legal Info  |  Editorial Complaints  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)