DVD, Blu-ray Movie Review
Directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, Written Glenn Ficarra, John Requa, and Steve McVicker (book), 98 minutes, Rated R.
By our guest blogger, Matthew Schimkowitz
Glenn Ficarra and John Requa took a six-year break between the instant cult-classic "Bad Santa" and their long-delayed, perverse companion piece to "Catch Me If You Can," "I Love You Philip Morris." In that time, the filmmakers learned a thing or two about sleight of hand. "Morris" is a sly, deceptive comedy that frequent stays one step ahead of the viewer, keeping its darkest cards close to the chest. However, Ficarra and Requa ace isn't the violent, raunchy humor, it's how emotionally complex he portrays the romance of Philip Morris and con-man Steven Russell.
"I Love You Philip Morris" opens like an episode of "Ozzy and Harriet." Jim Carrey plays Steven Russell, all around, warm-blooded American family man, with a great wife (Leslie Mann) and a song in his heart. There's just one tiny detail: He's gay.
To keep his wife and good job, Russell hides his extra-martial interests, until a car accident awakens him from his suburban nightmare and tells him to move to Florida, where he can live the lavish life of middle-aged gay man--and, boy, does he ever.
After plowing through his savings, Russell takes a part time job as a con-man, forging checks and credit cards to pay for his extravagant habits. Eventually, his con and the police catch up with him, landing him in jail. It is here that he meets Philip Morris (Ewan McGregor), the love of his life.
The rest of the film features Russell moving in and out of jail to either be with or free Morris. Ficarra and Requa juxtapose their gentle romance with their trademark violent humor. Russell performs random acts of kindness by sending chocolate to Morris, in one scene, and has Morris’ maniacal cellmate ruthlessly beaten in another. Each gesture is just more romantic than the last.
The two aspects of Russo's personality (the con-man and the lover) are the two most important pieces to Ficarra and Requa's film. Carrey builds a strong, emotional bond with McGregor, uncommon in a comedy this dark. Ficarra and Requa use this emotion to distract us from the frequent surprises in store. They’ll just as soon capture an emotional embrace between the star-crossed lovers as a painful one between Russo and concrete. This keeps the film both emotionally engaging and hilariously violent.
"I Love You Philip Morris" remains so intriguing because of both surprises. Ficarra and Requa's filming style tricks the viewer, allowing the jokes to slap the viewer in the face. But rather than laugh at the viewer, they welcome them with the touching story of a con-man and an ex-con that's got a lot up its sleeve.