Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor surprise us in I LOVE YOU PHILLIP MORRIS

"Even though, sometimes, I don't know who you are, I still love you."  These words, uttered by a sweet-like-you've-never-seen-him Ewan McGregor toward the conclu-sion of I LOVE YOU PHILLIP MORRIS, are so fitting, both for that moment and for the two characters who make up the lion's share of the movie -- and, in fact, for so many love relationships: Do we ever really know the one we profess to love? -- that they effectively sound the theme for this unusual and unusually well-done piece of cinema. Film-wise, this is the love story of the year. So full of quirky truth is it that, on one level, the fact that its protagonists are gay is almost beside the point.

The recipient of this love is the main character of the movie, played by Jim Carrey (above) as well as the actor has ever played any of his roles, and if he doesn't get a Best Actor nomination this year,  there ain't no justice. He is riveting in scene after scene, his inclination to rubber-face tamped down without losing a bit of the energy that is one of his trademarks. He is still quite funny but never less than absolutely real, and surprisingly moving without pushing a thing.

Carrey is complimented very well by McGregor, above, who shows a softness and sweetness here that trumps much else that he, too, has done up till now. His accent is lovely, as is his shyness and reticence.  In neither man's performance do you detect a trace of condescension.

Phillip Morris is the first film to be directed by the co-writers John Requa (near left) and Glenn Ficarra (far left), and while they will win no awards for inventive, cutting-edge movie-making, their film works won-derfully because they have, in nearly every scene and moment, achieved the right tone to bring off their extremely odd story, said to be based on real people. Given the bizarre goings-on and the even odder Carrey character, this is no small feat.

From the outset, the dry, in-your-face narration sets this tone perfectly, and it rarely wavers. A moment or two here and there is a bit closer to over-the-top than we might like, but the film always and quickly recovers. Its treatment of the sexual component of prison life, for example, is funny and raw -- reality raised just a notch to create both comedy and satire.

The duo's use of a joke -- making its rounds through a company, while bringing out the latent racism and intolerance -- as the thing that helps make Carrey's character snap is brilliant in its economy and sleazy eloquence.

The filmmaker use of clothes, cars and music (Johnny Mathis singing Chances Are!), is pleasantly un-pushy, too. The supporting cast is full of good actors. Leslie Mann as Carrey's wife (yes, he;'s married: The Kinsey Scale is fully evident here), Rodrigo Santoro (below, left) as his pre-McGregor beau, Antoni Corone (above, right) as his gullible boss and Annie Golden as a landlady/friend are several among many doing fine work.

This is a whopper of a good story -- and a very funny, odd, surprisingly thoughtful -- even moving -- film. As easy to sit through as any decently-made mainstream comedy, at its conclusion, it also provides a rather special, quietly subversive kick in the head.

I Love You Phillip Morris, from Roadside Attractions, opens Friday, December 3, in New York City (at the AMC Loew's Lincoln Square, Clearview Chelsea Cinema, AMC Loews Village 7). For full playdates, click here and then scroll down and click on Release Dates and Cities in the lower left hand corner. (At posting, Roadside Attractions has not yet linked to the playdates. Soon, we hope...)

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