I Love You Phillip Morris - the unlikely coupling of Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor

Lately, my film reviews seem to be getting much too rambling… It’s time for change :)
I’m trying a slightly different review format this time. Most things should be self-explanatory. The one thing that might be a bit confusing is the “driving force” concept. My theory is that films can be driven by:

  • Action/Plot
    By this I understand any film that relies on fast-paced action, plot twists and/or just generally the whos, whats, wheres and the order in which things happen.
  • Characters
    Any film which relies on deeply involving you with one or more of the characters.
  • Issues
    A film which touches upon some sort of social or political issue and relies on that to keep your interest.
  • Aesthetics/Mood
    Films where the general mood, rhythm and look of them are what is supposed to engage you.
  • Dialogue
    Films which rely a lot on the cleverness and wittiness of their dialogue to keep your attention (Kevin Smith’s films come to mind).

I don’t think this is an exhaustive list, but I figured it still might be interesting - hope you agree :) Most films fall in more than one category and categorizing them might be a bit subjective, but it could potentially be quite informative - worth a try anyway :)


I Love You Phillip Morris (France/USA, 2009)

Seen: Thursday, 27th May 2010 (cinema)
Runtime: 102′
Director: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
Cast: Jim Carrey, Ewan McGregor
Production House: Europa Corp., Mad Chance


Rating: +1 (Loved It)

Themes: Con Artist, Prison, True Story, Gay Relationship, Romance

Plot: The improbable, but true story of Steven Russell - a con artist who meets the love of his life in prison.

Driving Forces:
- Action/Plot
The series of events that happened to Steven Russell is completely ludicrous and bizarre. The film relies a lot on that.
- Characters
To a slightly lesser extent the film also depends on the audience being intrigued by the lead character and involved in the romance between the two men.

Style: Standard, no quirky camerawork or editing.

Memorable Moments:
- Two lovers dance
There’s a beautiful scene in which one of the prisoners gets paid off to play a love song in the middle of the night, so that Steven and Philip can dance in their cell. The guards try to have the music stopped, so a lot of madness and shouting ensues, but the two lovers continue dancing. It’s a hilarious scene, but also very romantic because of how Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor play it out.
- The chemistry between Ewan McGregor and Jim Carrey
While the dancing scene is particularly memorable, the two of them share a lot of small scenes and moments that are very cute. They seem like a slightly weird pairing, but they really work together. On the sex front my favourite was a scene following a blowjob - we see Ewan playfully spitting out what we can only assume must be cum and Jim exclaims “You don’t love me!” in mock indignation. It’s a really funny, but very sweet scene ;) Another memorable one was when the two of them are reunited after Philip (Ewan) is released from prison - the happiness they share is just soooo cute *grin* There’s plenty of small moments like that in the film.
- The penis references
Every now and then there are shots where random objects like clouds are arranged in penis shapes. The timing of these is always perfect ;)

General Comments
While I definitely loved the chemistry between Jim and Ewan and I thought both of them were extremely well cast, I felt they were a bit over the top. Personally, I would have liked it better if they had taken it down a bit. But despite that, it’s a very nice film to see for the two of them.
Jim Carrey was an excellent choice for this. While I’m not a huge fan, I tend to like him in roles which have a layer of falseness - stuff like Man on the Moon and The Truman Show where the line between truth and lies is very blurred. Steven Russell is a lot in that kind of vein.
I’m a bit taken aback that there was so much hoo-ha about the sex in this film. The film did get a US distributor in the end, but it won’t be released in the US until the 30th of July and that’s only if they don’t move the dates again (they were originally looking at a Valentine’s Day release). Many European countries, including some of the more staunchly Catholic regions like Poland or Lithuania, have had the opportunity to see the film before the American audience despite it being a US-produced movie.
If the film really did feature graphic gay sex scenes, I would roll my eyes at US distributors, but at least I’d understand why the film has run into such problems. As it doesn’t, I’m left very puzzled :] There are some vulgar (but very humorous) sex scenes, yes, but they are neither graphic nor explicit. On the contrary, my mum was actually impressed how much they managed to put through without showing anything.
My guess is that the struggles must have something to do with Jim Carrey - a big and very commercially-orientated star doing those kinds of scenes. I think it’s a first for a film star of that stature to be doing something quite this unapologetically gay. If it’s not that then maybe it’s because it has a lot of mentions of oral sex as well as an anal sex scene. Or maybe it’s none of that and then I totally don’t get it :]

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