Starring: Jim Carrey, Ewan McGregor and Leslie Mann
Distributor: Roadshow Films
Runtime: 102 mins. Reviewed in Nov 2011
Had the King of Siam seen this film, he might have said, ‘A puzzlement’. Some of it is played for laughs. Some of it is serious. It is the story of a con man. It is a love story.
What makes it different from the usual movie is that the two central characters are gay men.
The screenplay has no hesitation in presenting its characters, its situations, its crises, its sensibilities, its language, as gay. Most audiences are not used to spending this amount of time in the company of gay men and being asked to identify with them, share their experiences and be accepting. They may feel the atmosphere makes them uncomfortable (and remind us all about explicit and implicit homophobia in society). In fact, much of the film’s budget came from Europe, rather than the United States, which is more accustomed to telling stories of sexual orientation.
The main star is an advantage as well as a difficulty. It is Jim Carrey extending his range, trying for a different performance and venturing into a role and a story that might test his fans’ loyalties. When he is performing very seriously, he makes an impression, helping us to understand this eccentric man. The difficulty is that often enough, he suddenly makes a face, shows an expression or reacts in the way that he did in some of his wilder comedies, reminding us that this character, Steven Russell, is Jim Carrey on screen. Phillip Morris is played more subtly by Ewan McGregor, a gentle man who has been put down in life and comes to depend in every way on Steven Russell.
Steven Russell narrates his story, his childhood, his adoption, his family and religious life, his police work. After a car accident, he decides to come out – and how! Flamboyant, extravagant, clubbing, buying without limits, a boyfriend – and the realisation that he needed money, so he indulges in a number of frauds. And then to jail where he falls at first sight for Phillip Morris.
Lots of tricks and frauds in prison, then they are out and living the high (highest) life with a top job in a finance firm.
**SPOILER** It can’t last – and there is a final elaborate con which we do not anticipate.
The film is based on a book by Steven McVikar who interviewed Russell in prison where he is serving a life sentence (made during the time of George W. Bush as Governor of Texas) under the strictest supervision. Phillip Morris himself advised on the film and has a cameo.
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