There are two defining moments in I Love You Phillip Morris. In the first Jim Carrey goes to confront his birth mother, who
“I WAS THE MIDDLE CHILD!?!?” he howls to the shut door. Softly inside the people start singing “Happy Birthday” to drown him out. It’s a jet black moment. And it’s hilarious.
The next moment comes a few scenes after, in the aftermath of a car accident Stephen’s being wheeled away on a gurney and decides fuck it; he’s tired of living a lie. His split lip bursts into the unmistakable Carrey grin, his blood caked face lights up. “I’m A FAG!!!” he announces and repeats it over and over and over again rapturous smile still on his face.
What both scenes benefit from is Carrey’s go for broke nature that is at the core DNA as a performer. Occasionally it makes him nigh unbearable. But here, where it allows him to embrace both the sheer starkness of where the movie takes him and the eager almost ebullient way he embraces his characters sexuality, it ends up being almost an incalculable asset.
For all the ground that Brokeback Mountain broke there have been very few movies that have followed its lead of frankly depicting homosexuality (And the exceptions that I can think of, say Scott Pilgrim or Nick And Norah’s Infinite Playlist are aimed squarely at the youth market… and Michael Cera fans. No conclusions drawn) the fact that it took two whole years to get Phillip Morris on a handful of American screens is frankly troubling. This is after all a movie featuring big stars, including one that the American Public has more or less proved they’ll go to see in just about any old fucking thing. And though the movie is certainly frank about sexuality, it’s hardly anything beyond the pale. The already somewhat infamous fellatio sequence ended up being kind of underwhelming. If it was done in a movie with a straight couple it’d be considered downright coy. Like I said, this isn’t so much a knock against the movie as it is this bizarre feeling that people can’t take it. I Love You Phillip Morris is nothing more or less then a big mainstream (though unusually dark and smart) comedy.
This isn’t difficult material. This is Catch Me If You Can off its meds. Frankly aggressive and anarchic at times. We’re talking about a movie that gets big gut laughs from a suicide attempt made by a sobbing man.
Praise must go to Ewan MacGregor as Phillip Morris. He has a less showy role then Carrey (as costars in a Jim Carrey movie are want to do) but he has chemistry with Carrey. Leslie Mann also deserves a great deal of credit for taking a role who starts out an annoying cliché and makes it into a character.
Welcome to I Love You Phillip Morris, the first great cult film of the decade. If the subject matter didn’t guarantee it, then the timidly small release did(Compare its gross to the one’s Mr. Popper’s Penguins is all but guaranteed to rake in and prepare to feel depressed). The movie has made it ripe for rediscovery virtually before it was ripe for discovery virtually guarantees it.