Review: I Love You Phillip Morris

Ewan McGregor and Jim Carrey play gay lovers in the funny con-man movie  I Love You Phillip Morris .
Ewan McGregor and Jim Carrey play gay lovers in the funny con-man movie I Love You Phillip Morris .

(MA15+) ****

Director: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa.

Cast: Jim Carrey, Ewan McGregor, Leslie Mann, Rodrigo Santoro.

IN my recent review for the lame family flick Mr Popper's Penguins, I stated that Jim Carrey hadn't made a really good live-action movie since 2004, the year of Lemony Snickett and Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind.

I'll have to amend that now that I've seen I Love You Phillip Morris, which was actually made in 2009 but had its release delayed due to legal wrangling and possible cold-feet from distributors.

ILYPM is quite good and it's a shame that this film was shunted around the backburners for so long. If you're wondering why a film with such high calibre actors as Carrey and Ewan McGregor was not deemed worthy of a wide or immediate release, it's most likely because of the subject matter. Sure, lots of people want to see a movie with Carrey and McGregor in it, but I'd wager that quite a few Hollywood players got nervous as to whether as many people would want to see a movie that stars them as gay lovers.

Carrey plays real-life conman Steve Russell, a man dubbed The King Of Cons, who made a habit of finding devious ways to get what he wanted and then a subsequent habit of breaking out of prison.

Steve starts out as an all-round Ned Flanders type. He sings in the church choir, has a loving wife and daughter, and is spurred by a desire to be a good person, leading to him becoming a police officer.

But Steve is living a lie - something that will become a constant theme in his life - and he decides after a rather traumatic and sudden epiphany that he can no longer hide his homosexuality (which is raised with a sudden and hilarious freeze frame), eventually setting himself on the path that will lead to him falling in love with the titular Phillip (McGregor).

Carrey and McGregor make for a convincing couple, and while it sounds condescending or patronising to commend them for taking on such "brave" roles, the truth is that a lot of people will (unfortunately) dismiss this film straight away. It treats its romance like any other (as it should) and that includes sex scenes that people would just take for granted if it was hetero.

But what matters is that this film is good in an offbeat way, like a left-of-centre Catch Me If You Can. Steve's crimes and cons are so alarmingly simple and straight-forward that they become very funny, and ILYPM is peppered with laugh out loud moments.

While the film's momentum wanes towards the end as it struggles to wedge in some necessary emotional weight, it should be praised for its comedic delivery, aided in no small way by a restrained but bubbly performance from Carrey.

Some of the humour heads towards the dark side and much of the action takes place in a prison, but amazingly, this movie remains bright and bubbly and all the more fascinating because it's based on a true story.