I Love You Philip Morris

Posted by Greg Butler On May - 15 - 2011

Not your most conventional love story, Russell and Morris find true love in prison

Its Hard for comedic stars to stay relevant through the decades, they may luck out with physical gimmicks (The Pink Panther), or perhaps the weird persona sells it (any “Ernest” films)
If it works, audiences will buy tickets to view the latest bumbling of a somewhat functioning jester. We revel in the behavioral nature of the uninhibited rebel, breaking norms on screen in what we the audiences wish to do off screen.. Silent film actors like Fatty Arbuckle; Charlie Chaplin, even present day Bill Murray, represented the unleashed ids of moviegoers ready to identify with a man/child rule breaker. How long does that last before the comedian wears out his welcome and begins to resemble your grandpa wearing those disco pants you thought he got rid of. Jerry Lewis once disapproved of the Farrelly Brothers” Dumb and Dumber, in particular Jim Carrey’s toilet humor approach of Lloyd, indeed the short cropped hairstyle and awkwardness was in some ways homage to the Lewis’s own geeky character Julius Kelp in the Nutty professor.

Reaching for the lowest common denominator, "Bumblee Tuna" nearly typecast Carey as "the guy who does stupid stuff.."


Lewis summed up his disapproval of the tone of the movie and perhaps Carrey as well. Had he looked a bit thoroughly, he might have picked up Carrey’s choices of bobbing back and forth between low art and better art, from Ace Ventura crudeness to concepts like the very Tex Avery styled The Mask.
Lewis did the reverse or rather stayed the same, continuously playing the same buffoon from previous roles. He was once half the comedy duo of Dean Martin in the late forties before striking out on his own.. but things change, political administrations come and go, economic times go up and down , the caricature of a man -child act can only go so far. This is probably the reason why Lewis’s career stalled in the 60’s and went dead in the 70’s, like the proverbial peter Pan, Lewis never wanted to grow up, Movies like Hardly working only painfully revealed that the times have finally and decisively caught up with him.
And this is where Jim Carrey comes in, veteran of the TV show in Living Color, he branched into the film world, catering first to the college frat crowd with low brow humor but also engaging in more ambitious comedies like the Truman show. Carrey avoids the mistake Lewis made in his career, realizing just in time that burlesque antics eventually wears thin with each generation. So a change was needed if you wanted to stick around a little longer.

Not every thing comes up Michael Jordan in the Number 23.


Carey had some miss-steps along the way. Wanting to be taken seriously, he overplayed his hand in the Majestic, A Capra influenced knock off that gives new meaning to the word maudlin. The Number 23, a semi-horror mystery drama became a mystery on why it was made. Finally taking a page from the Michel Gondry’s film Sunshine of the spotless mind, he may now be finding his niche balancing his unique style with off the wall quirkiness. It’s not the character that’s funny but the situation around him.

Carey creates a caricature of a gay character that anyone who lived through the 80s decade of gluttony can relate to: The pursuit to get Rich fast!


I love you Phillip Morris is the most daring subject yet for Carrey. Based on a true story of a gay con man that gifts his way through life until he finds true love connections with Ewan McGregor, played wonderfully in a gentle doe like performance. With his puppy dog eyes and lilting voice, he makes him a very enticing and literal jailbait that anyone straight or gay would probably fall for. The movie’s protagonist is reminiscence of Spielberg’s film “Catch Me if You Can”, but whereas DiCaprio character was deluding himself of being something he was not, due to lack of family cohesiveness, Carrey’s Steven Russell revel in his con to keep his. If anything the acts of deception by Russell validates the attitudes of economic excess of Reagan-omic indulgence of the 80′s.
There are moments of sweetness that solidify the relationship as in one intermittent scene of Carrey and McGregor slow dancing nonchalantly as Johnnie Mathis‘s Chances are played on, amidst the violent accompaniment of a police shutdown in the next prison cell. The passion and the devotion Russell has in their relationship wasn’t any different than Hawkeye’s declaration of love to Cora in the Last of the Mohicans. Add consistent prison escapes and con jobs gives weight to Russell’s motivations, yes he’s a thief but he’s caring one.
Look we can wonder if Carrey is or isn’t going for Oscar gold with these choices, but I won’t slam him if he tried. After all, everybody wants to stay relevant.

I Love You Philip Morris a beer rates a shot of bourbon.

Cheers,
Greg

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