Tuesday, December 28, 2010
I LOVE YOU PHILLIP MORRIS
What a missed opportunity.
This film is based on a true story, and a pretty interesting one, about a con man who has some success impersonating people he isn't. A lesser version of the real characters played by Tony Curtis in THE GREAT IMPOSTOR and Leonardo DiCaprio in CATCH ME IF YOU CAN.
This guy didn't have as long a career or as successful a one as the con men portrayed in those movies. He ended up in jail sooner, where he fell in love, the main theme of the film's story.
The problem is the director/writers, Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (who based their script on a book by Steve McVicker) decided to present this as a lighthearted comedy of errors and cast Jim Carrey in the lead. No matter how hard he tries, he can't resist going for the broad gesture when the more subtle one would make it so more real.
Ewan McGregor does his best to play the love interest, but the script makes his attempts to bring some realism to the flick seem futile. Because the writing, the directing, and Carrey and Leslie Mann, who plays his wife, keep going for the comic, turning what could have been an intriguing take on an unusual character and the absurd lengths he'll go to for "love" (it needs the quotes because despite McGregor's attempts and even Carrey's, the filmmakers present the case for slapstick sex show over any deeper connection the story seems to want us to buy) into a film so frivolous even the scenes where they all seem to be trying to pull at our heart strings read incredibly cynically and phony.
(The one exception among the actors who pulls off the difficult task of coming across as real—despite the directors/writers sabotaging of everyone else's attempts—is Rodrigo Santos as an earlier lover of Carrey's character. He ought to get an award for transcending the script's and the film's problems and creating a character we can understand, accept as real, and even have some understanding of if not sympathy for.)
Ficarra and Requa are best known for BAD SANTA and CATS AND DOGS, which may explain why they messed up what could have been a really unique and deeply effective movie about the extremes people will go to. But instead is presented as some sort of sardonic lark we're obviously not supposed to take seriously except when we are. It doesn't work, and may explain why the film was made in 2009 and hasn't been released yet, or only briefly.
What a waste of time and talent, despite the moments that work, which only reinforce the disappointment in the so many more that don't.