It’s hard to not admire the work of an actor extending his range even further by exposing himself to a role that demands a performance he’s never given before. Jim Carrey is absolutely entertaining, as Steven Russell, in Glenn Ficarra and John Requa’s film I Love You Phillip Morris. The film is a slap-dash romantic dramedy, bursting with silly charm. Ficarra and Requa handle the film well, making the most of the roller-coaster ride that’s based on a true story. Carrey’s layered performance, the film’s jogging pace and clever comedy, and the offbeat subject matter make for a product that’s freshly entertaining for many viewers.
Jim Carrey is a talented dramatic actor, as well as he is a comedic force. Steven Russell is a homosexual orphan that becomes a con-man, making a reputation for himself as a Houdini of jail cells, and Carrey plays Russell with comfortable ease. Carrey is an amusement park of entertainment as Russell, giving his most rousing performance in quite awhile. Ewan McGregor, playing Phillip Morris, comes off naturally as Russell’s love interest that just wants to settle down, clashing with Russell’s obsession with schemes and a stolen life of luxury. The efforts of the two are fantastic.
Ficarra and Requa keep us on Russell’s side throughout the film, as he explains that his schemes are targeted on victims that deserve to be swindled, and it works. The cons are fun, and the film’s comfort ability with homosexuality also makes for some great laughs. It is also an upbeat film about discovering yourself and letting your true self breath, rather than hiding within the skin that society has stuffed you in. The editing is clever, such as the comedic freeze frames, and the blunt transitions; for example, there’s a scene of praying that cuts immediately to sex. The bright, clean colors also match well with the film’s humor and clash with the few dramatic moments.
At times the film feels like a parody of a soap opera, with some contrived lines, such as, “this right here is destiny.” Although this could add to its comedic factor, it may make some cringe. On top of that, the chemistry between McGregor and Carrey doesn’t feel authentic enough; possibly because their first interaction with each other is a “love at first sight” sort of deal. This may work for others, but non-believers it’s hard to take in.
There are several twists and turns in the plot, and it may be because the script uses a real story as guidelines, but some of the twists aren’t effective. The ending overall feels a bit tacky, even if it’s “real.”
The dramatic moments in the film are few and aren’t completely fleshed out like the comedy, and if it were it might have made the film more solid. Jim Carrey gives a great performance, but he doesn’t touch the soulfulness he’s shown before, in such films as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
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