Friday, June 09, 2017

I Love You Phillip Morris

Based on the memoir by Steven McVicker, I Love You Phillip Morris is the story of a conman who falls for an inmate as he would escape several times to be with his lover. Written for the screen and directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, the film is black comedy based on the life of Steven Jay Russell and relationship with Morris as Russell is portrayed by Jim Carrey and Morris is played by Ewan McGregor. Also starring Rodrigo Santoro, Antoni Corone, and Leslie Mann. I Love You Phillip Morris is a charming and off-the-wall film from Glenn Ficarra and John Requa.

The film is based on the true story of a con man whose exploits in pretending to be a lawyer and later a chief financial officer for a corporation to create a lifestyle for himself and his lover. Yet, it is a very comical film of sorts as it is largely told by Steven Jay Russell as he lies on his deathbed talking about his own life and how he met Phillip Morris in prison as they would forge a relationship. The film’s screenplay by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa is largely told from Russell’s perspective as a man who had a hard time finding himself as he knows he’s gay but couldn’t come out except have trysts with other men in secrecy while being married to a woman and having a daughter. After a car accident where he has an epiphany, he decides to embrace his homosexuality and gain a lover but realizes how expensive the gay lifestyle is as he would use his skills from his time as a policeman in Texas to con people which would get him in trouble and lose his first lover Jimmy (Rodrigo Santoro) until he meets Morris in prison.

The script does show how flawed Russell is someone who is flawed as he is a man with good intention yet does bad things. Even as he would lie to Morris who is kept in the dark about what Russell does as he is just someone that is just a good person, who got in trouble for grand theft auto, where he eventually realizes what Russell is doing. Adding to Russell’s troubles is the fact that he would put himself into situations that are overwhelming as he would charm and lie his way to get the job done as he would raise suspicions among those he meet.

The direction of Ficarra and Requa is quite straightforward while displaying some bits of style. Shot largely in Louisiana with some of the film shot in Miami, it play into a world that is set mainly in the American South such as places like Texas, Virginia Beach, and Miami where it is quite conservative at times but also leaning toward embracing the idea of homosexuality. Much of the compositions are simple yet Ficarra and Requa would create something that is comical as well as offbeat such as scene where Russell and Morris are sharing a jail cell as they’re dancing to Johnny Mathis while the guy in the next cell is mouthing off at the guards. There are some wide shots yet Ficarra and Requa would more favor intimate compositions in the close-ups and medium shots while they would also create scenes that are playful and fun but also have this air of drama in the third act. Especially in the fact that it starts off very bleak with Russell lying on his deathbed as he would tell his story through voiceover narration which help add to the film’s offbeat tone. Overall, Ficarra and Requa create a witty yet heartfelt film about a con man trying to provide and bring happiness to the man that he loves.

Cinematographer Xavier Perez Grobet does excellent work with the film’s colorful cinematography with the vibrancy of the exterior scenes in Miami and Louisiana as Texas as well as some of the interiors including the starkly-lit scenes set in prison. Editor Thomas J. Nordberg does brilliant work with the editing with its usage of jump-cuts for a few scenes as well as emphasizing on straightforward editing techniques to play into the drama and humor. Production designer Hugo Luczyc-Wyhowski, with set decorator Cynthia Anne Slagter and art director Helen Harwell, does fantastic work with the look of some of the homes the characters live in as well as Russell’s office where he’s a CFO and some of the interiors at the prison. Costume designer David C. Robinson does nice work with the costumes as it has some style as it play into the late 90s gay lifestyle as well as something that is casual.

Visual effects supervisor Jim Rider does terrific work with some of the minimal visual effects that include a sequence about the clouds into what Russell saw as a child. Sound designer Paul Urmson does superb work with the sound as it play into the intense atmosphere of the prison as well as some of the quieter moments that play into the comedy and drama. The film’s music by Nick Urata is wonderful as it’s a low-key orchestral score play into humor and drama while music supervisor Gary Calamar creates an amazing soundtrack that features music from Johnny Mathis, Devotchka, Robbie Dupree, and Nina Simone.

The casting on Bernard Telsey is marvelous as it feature some notable small roles from Michael Mandel as a tough prisoner named Cleavon who is an unwilling messenger for Russell and Morris, Annie Golden as a friend of Morris who turns to Russell for help on a legal thing, Marylouise Burke as Russell’s biological mother who rejects him, David Jensen as a judge that is conned by Russell, Brennan Brown as a financial executive who is suspicious of Russell’s work in finance, and Antoni Corone as a financial guru who would hire Russell unaware that Russell is conning him. Leslie Mann is wonderful as Russell’s ex-wife Debbie who is a woman that is supportive of her husband coming out yet is taken aback by his schemes. Rodrigo Santoro is superb as Jimmy as Russell’s first lover who is suspicious of what Russell is doing as he is also not fond of what he learns about Russell’s actions as a con man.

Finally, there’s the duo of Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor in phenomenal performances in their respective roles as Steven Jay Russell and Phillip Morris. McGregor gives a very heartfelt and kind performance as a man that just wants to help people and isn’t ashamed of his homosexuality as he also sports a fine Southern accent. Carrey is definitely the livelier of the two in terms of the way he expresses himself physically but also do it in a restrained manner so that it wouldn’t be entirely comical as he balances that with a sense of humility and determination. Carrey and McGregor together don’t just have this chemistry that is enchanting but also very touching as they make themselves to be this very loving couple that is just a delight to socialize with.

I Love You Phillip Morris is a tremendous film from Glenn Ficarra and John Requa that features incredible performances from Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor. Along with top-notch supporting performances from Leslie Mann and Rodrigo Santoro as well as a funny and heartwarming script, the film is definitely a romantic comedy that doesn’t play by the rules as well as showcase homosexuality in a very kind and warm approach. In the end, I Love You Phillip Morris is a sensational film from Glenn Ficarra and John Requa.

Glenn Ficarra & John Requa Films: (Crazy, Stupid, Love) – (Focus (2015 film)) – (Whiskey Tango Foxtrot)

© thevoid99 2017

1 comment:

Dell said...

I remember wanting to see this when it came out, but I never got around to it. Eventually, I forgot about it. Sounds like it's worth it. Thanks for the reminder.