I LOVE YOU PHILLIP MORRIS (John Requa, Glenn Ficarra). 98 minutes. Opens Friday (March 4) at the Royal. See Indie & Rep Film. Rating: NNNN
Made in 2008 and shoved into limbo after playing Sundance and Cannes two years ago, I Love You Phillip Morris sneaks into a limited run at the Royal with virtually no advance notice. It’s not being released, it’s escaping.
For some movies, that’d be a shameful thing. For this oddball little romance, it feels entirely appropriate.
The film casts Jim Carrey as Steven Russell, a con artist who finds true love in a Texas prison with the eponymous inmate (Ewan McGregor) and then does everything he can to spend the rest of his life with him in style. It’s the “in style” part that keeps getting him into trouble, as Steven’s increasingly outsized schemes – including landing himself a job as CFO for a Texas bank – have a way of imploding when someone notices his improprieties.
It’s Carrey’s best role since Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, and he commits to it fully, bursting with unadulterated joy during Steven’s time with Phillip and sinking into misery when they’re separated. (McGregor’s pretty good, too, though his part requires him to spend a lot of time playing oblivious optimism.)
Making their directorial debut, screenwriters John Requa and Glenn Ficarra go for bright colours, crisp editing and an antic musical score. You’d never know these were the same guys who wrote Bad Santa and the Bad News Bears remake for Billy Bob Thornton’s cranky ass.
I Love You Phillip Morris is a gleeful ride through a ridiculous true story. It’s a shame its U.S. distributor got cold feet over all the gay stuff and put it on the shelf. Still, better late than never, right?