AWFJ Women On Film – “I Love You Phillip Morris” – Review by Susan Granger

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Don’t let the lure of Jim Carry and Ewan McGregor entice you into the theater, because this unbelievable-but-true black comedy has woefully little to recommend it. When we’re introduced to Steven Jay Russell (Carrey), he’s a devoutly religious, seemingly happy, small-town Georgia police officer with a lovely wife (Leslie Mann) and family. But then there’s an automobile accident from which he awakens, proclaiming to paramedics that he’s gay. Fleeing to Florida, he takes up with an expensive-to-maintain South Beach pretty-boy (Rodrigo Santoro). Desperate for cash, he turns to insurance fraud and winds up in a Texas penitentiary, where he meets a sweetly sensitive Southerner, Phillip Morris (McGregor), incarcerated for grand theft auto. A facile con man, Steven moves into Phillip’s cell, where they romantically slow-dance to Johnny Mathis’ singing “Chances Are.” Determined to build a life together after they’re released, Steven impersonates a defense attorney and, eventually, through a tangled web of deception, wangles a CFO position at a medical management firm. Unable to stop himself, he embezzles millions which, once again, lands him back in the slammer, where he methodically starves himself to convince doctors that he’s a dying of AIDS.

Predictably, it’s just another morbid canard. Deducing from the clunky cellphones, it was shot several years ago but, according to McGregor, its release was delayed from 2009 because “Disney bosses didn’t want young film fans thinking their Ebenezer Scrooge in ‘A Christmas Carol’ was a bender.”

Based on the novel by investigative Houston reporter Steve McVicker, it’s been poorly

adapted and erratically co-directed by John Requa and Glenn Ficarra (“Bad Santa”), who wallow in silly, lurid stereotypes and stale clichés, revealing remarkably little about genuine gay affection. Even Carrey’s narcissistic clowning is so callow that it’s hard to work up much empathy, particularly when he’s sashaying in fishnets. In contrast, McGregor’s slyly low-key delivery achieves remarkable depth.

So on the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “I Love You, Phillip Morris” is a smirking, awkwardly insincere 2, revolving around the shocking scams of a bizarre sociopath.

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Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin is the Film Critic for Womens eNews and contributes the CINEMA CITIZEN blog for and is managing editor for Women on Film, the online magazine of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, of which she is President. She has served as a regular critic and film-related interviewer for The New York Press and About.com. She has written about entertainment for USA Today, The L.A. Times, US Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Endless Vacation Magazine, Daily News, New York Post, SoHo News and other publications. After receiving her MFA from Tisch School of the Arts (Grad Acting), Jennifer performed at the O'Neill Theater Center's Playwrights Conference, Long Wharf Theater, American Place Theatre and LaMamma, where she worked with renown Japanese director, Shuji Terayama. She subsequently joined Terayama's theater company in Tokyo, where she also acted in films. Her journalism career began when she was asked to write about Terayama for The Drama Review. She became a regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor after writing an article about Marketta Kimbrell's Theater For The Forgotten, with which she was performing at the time. She was an O'Neill Theater Center National Critics' Institute Fellow, and then became the institute's Coordinator. While teaching at the Universities of Wisconsin and Rhode Island, she wrote "A Directory of Festivals of Theater, Dance and Folklore Around the World," published by the International Theater Institute. Denmark's Odin Teatret's director, Eugenio Barba, wrote his manifesto in the form of a letter to "Dear Jennifer Merin," which has been published around the world, in languages as diverse as Farsi and Romanian. Jennifer's culturally-oriented travel column began in the LA Times in 1984, then moved to The Associated Press, LA Times Syndicate, Tribune Media, Creators Syndicate and (currently) Arcamax Publishing. She's been news writer/editor for ABC Radio Networks, on-air reporter for NBC, CBS Radio and, currently, for Westwood One's America In the Morning. She is also a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. For her AWFJ archive, type "Jennifer Merin" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).