Carrey kills in ‘I Love You Phillip Morris’

Posted by · 9:22 am · October 14th, 2010

I really can’t sing the praises of Glenn Ficarra and John Requa’s “I Love You Phillip Morris” enough.  It’s a shame the elusive film, which has been sitting on a shelf waiting for a release for some time, has taken this long to see the light of day, because it’s a delightful romp with genuine dramatic hues.  And it probably features Jim Carrey’s finest performance to date.

The thing about Carrey — who I’ve admired through thick and through thin — is that there has always been something self-aware about his work.  I think he has been magnificent in everything from “The Truman Show” to “Man on the Moon” to, certainly, “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” And the latter is where he seemed to finally be settling into a groove as a thespian more than a performer.

Nevertheless, in virtually all of his dramatic performances to date (especially his work in the ill-received “The Majestic”), he seemed to be watching himself with a third eye, which inevitably held him back.  In “I Love You Phillip Morris,” all of that is gone.  He’s never felt so organic and believable as a character and he legitimately deserves to be a part of this year’s awards discussion.

Of course, it’s an uphill climb.  It’ll be tough to get voters to watch the film, though if they did, I’m convinced they would have an absolute blast.  Ficarra and Requa tell this story swiftly and with comedic delicacy.  It’s not the kind of film that draws huge guffaws but I was chuckling throughout.  And most of that has to do with Carrey’s quirky, unique portrayal.

In the way of a quick background, Carrey stars as Steven Russell, a southern boy who was put up for adoption in his youth and now lives the wholesome white-picket-fence family life in Virginia Beach.  But he’s living a lie — he’s a homosexual.  One day a brush with death forces him to reassess.  He decides to embrace his lifestyle, leaving his family behind for a life in southern Florida (though he is never out of their lives and is clearly a good father so it’s not a dead-beat situation).

In order to maintain the extravagant lifestyle he’s attracted to, Steven becomes a refined con man — grocery store “slips,” escalator “accidents,” etc.  Eventually his cons become more elaborate and lead him to a prison sentence, where he meets Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor) and falls in love.  They serve their time, get out of jail and begin a new life together, one unfortunately supported by Steven’s biggest con of all.

And it’s all based on a true story.

McGregor is also very good opposite Carrey and their chemistry is highly believable, their passion quite infectious.  It says something about their talent that the emotion between the characters translates so completely and never feels false.  But it’s mostly Carrey’s show and he just nails it.

So here’s a cry to the awards season gods of futility: take a good look at this performance.  Forgive the pun, but it’s a true coming out party for the next stage in Carrey’s career.

→ 37 Comments Tags: , , , , | Filed in: Reviews

37 responses so far

  • 1 10-14-2010 at 9:47 am

    Silencio said...

    Thrilling. I’ve been pulling for him so long.

  • 2 10-14-2010 at 10:04 am

    Zachary said...

    Ever since The Majestic, a movie I liked, Carrey has proven himself to be an actor much more than Ace Ventura and The Mask would lead you to believe.

    I hope this movie comes to my neck of the woods.

  • 3 10-14-2010 at 10:15 am

    Dominik said...

    To be true, I think this movie is a mess. For example that leitmotf-joke with the cloud formed like a penis. Oh well, not my kind of humor! When I was 11, yes, but now..?

  • 4 10-14-2010 at 10:19 am

    ferdi said...

    I love you Philip Morris was released in Italy last April. I found Carrey’s performance truly terrific, funny and emotional, one of the best of his glorious career. I fear this year the Oscar will go to Colin Firth just because he lost to Bridges last year. But Carrey is a genius actor, more overdue than Firth and Philip Morris is a true showcase of his immense talent.

  • 5 10-14-2010 at 10:32 am

    Jonathan Spuij said...

    He was very funny. He’ll probably end up in supporting as well.

  • 6 10-14-2010 at 10:39 am

    Conrad Hilton, Jr. said...

    I’m pretty impressed a publicist would give you head just to start awards buzz (which will live and die here exclusively) for one of the worst movies of the year.

  • 7 10-14-2010 at 10:43 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    No head (unfortunately). Genuine love of the film (which isn’t THAT unique, given some of the responses here).

    And hey, it was a cry to the gods of “futility” anyway. I know what’s what here.

  • 8 10-14-2010 at 10:49 am

    Dylan said...

    I think Carey will be this years Swinton in Julia–a critically lauded performance that’s completely (and tragically) ignored.

  • 9 10-14-2010 at 10:51 am

    Tye-Grr said...

    I really admired Carrey’s performance here, deftly mixing drama and comedy, and he creates a complete character. I thought the movie was good (I originally gave it a ‘B’ grade), but Carrey is great. I still think his brilliant perf’s in ‘Eternal Sunshine’, ‘The Truman Show’ and the criminally underrated ‘Man on the Moon’ are better, but it’s up there.

  • 10 10-14-2010 at 10:56 am

    John said...

    I made a comment last year about Carrey’s self-referentiality and was shot down.

    I’ve always liked him, but I agree that he’s usually “Acting,” with a capital A, as if on the stage, and this is what’s kept him an arm’s length away from recognition . I’m glad to hear that that’s changing.

  • 11 10-14-2010 at 11:09 am

    Jeff said...

    I can’t help but wonder, considering the media spotlight lately on homosexual bullying and the need for tolerance, if Carrey won’t draw extra attention and perhaps even garner that elusive nomination. It would be a “timely” performance and he certainly has the “snub” factor in his favor. Also something of a comeback.

  • 12 10-14-2010 at 11:21 am

    Joe said...

    I personally thought Stuhlbarg gave the best performance last year. Where’s his next film?

  • 13 10-14-2010 at 11:42 am

    Pete said...

    Joe, I think Stuhlbard is more of a theater actor but he is currently on “Boardwalk Empire” and I have heard people raving about his performance on the show.

    I also want to say that to me Tapley’s description of Carrey aplies even more to his co-star Ewan McGregor. I.E. he tries hard and sometimes he is good but nearly always he is very self-conscious.

  • 14 10-14-2010 at 11:45 am

    Bing147 said...

    I enjoyed him here. I have him in 09 where I have him hanging just outside my top 10. But… I dunno, he’ll certainly be better than someone who gets nominated but I’m not blown away.

  • 15 10-14-2010 at 11:50 am

    tdr said...

    Kris, you locked down the Oscar Talk post, but I hope I can catch you here for a last minute question. Do you and Anne think that Carrey has a realistic shot at a nomination in case he gets the support (critical approval, precursors, a campaign, etc.)?
    P.S. I just watched the movie and I really liked it. I hope he can get the recognition he deserves.

  • 16 10-14-2010 at 12:00 pm

    The Great Dane said...

    It’s funny to see so many positive words about the film and performance here, because Sasha Stone put up the poster as well, and all people write over there is how much they hate/dislike the film.

    I thought the film was madly uneven, and Carrey never worked for me. Half the time he was playing his Ace Ventura/Mask part, and half the time he was in Eternal Sunshine. It never felt like a complete performance. But it’s not all his fault, the film itself is schizophrenic. It wants to be a broad, unserious slapstick comedy at times, and sometimes just a black comedy. So when it suddenly wants to be a touching melodrama and tender love story as well, it goes too far in what it wants from its audience.

    Carrey can’t let go of his ususal over-the-top screaming/psysical comedy in the funny scenes, so he, again, seems to be aaaacting/putting on a show half the time in stead of “being”.

    Not to mention the strong gay content, the somewhat graphic love/sex scenes and the fact that the lead character is such an idiot – how could the Academy ever embrace is this? It’s not going to happen. The character’s never seem like real people (true story or not). Carrey’s character is just not credible as a human being, and his relationship to his ex wife never convinces as a believable relation, even if there are children involved…

    So far the film has received a very mixed bag of reviews all over the world. From “very good” to a disaster, and the bad reviews are just too many to make this a serious contender. If Europe were hard on this film, I can’t imagine US being softer on it. I think it’s gonna be more butchered than you’d think. It will devide audiences and critics, and there won’t be enough fans of it, I think…

  • 17 10-14-2010 at 12:13 pm

    Derek 8-Track said...

    Hopefully we see him in the side bar come the 18th.

  • 18 10-14-2010 at 12:15 pm

    Pete said...

    There is something to be said for critically trashed films receiving Oscar attention in acting categories… It was in supporting but Stanley Tucci’s LB Oscar nod comes to mind.

  • 19 10-14-2010 at 12:17 pm

    Ben M. said...

    Granted I haven’t seen the movie, but from what I’ve heard about it I doubt Carrey will score his first oscar nod. Still, I think there could be a Globes play in here, if it is classifed under Comedy/Musical that is usually the easier category to get nominated in and the HFPA seems to like him.

  • 20 10-14-2010 at 12:32 pm

    Ryan Adams said...

    I Love You Phillip Morris is to gay
    as Inglourious Basterds is to Natzees.

  • 21 10-14-2010 at 12:42 pm

    Andrew M said...

    Joe: He is going to be in Scorsese’s Hugo Cabret

  • 22 10-14-2010 at 12:54 pm

    Pete said...

    Ryan Adams is to analogy
    as Kathy Griffin is to funny ;)

    (‘Tis but a friendly jab, Rollerboy)

  • 23 10-14-2010 at 12:58 pm

    Kevin Klawitter said...

    Not that I’m suprised, but why hasn’t anybody mentioned Carrey’s terrific work in multiple roles in last year’s “A Christmas Carol”? He was completely believeable and authentic as Scrooge and the three spirits.

    Personally, I think his best performance is in “The Majestic”. It’s the type of good old-fashioned entertainment that Hollywood doesn’t seem to make anymore. On the other hand, I haven’t seen this one yet, so I’ll have to check it out.

  • 24 10-14-2010 at 1:13 pm

    Ryan Adams said...

    Since Kathy Griffin mops the floor with Jim Carrey’s worn out shtick, I’m choosing to take that as a compliment, Pete.

    If I were handling Roadside’s Oscar’s properties, would I be putting money behind Javier Bardem in Biutiful or banking on Carrey in this 2-hour crudity?

    If the Academy wanted to award this sort of gay performance they had a funnier chance last year with Bruno.

    one of these things is not like the other:

    Heath Ledger
    Sean Penn
    Philip Seymour Hoffman
    Colin Firth
    Jim Carrey

  • 25 10-14-2010 at 1:26 pm

    Sawyer said...

    Once a year Tapley goes out on a limb for a movie that is divisive or liked-but-not-loved. I admire that.

    I Love You Phillip Morris is this year’s Bolt!

  • 26 10-14-2010 at 2:01 pm

    James said...

    Wow. Okay I might have to see it. Its not that I was never interested, it was just never on my radar.

  • 27 10-14-2010 at 2:04 pm

    /3rtfu11 said...

    My favorite Jim Carey performance (comedic or otherwise) is Man on the Moon (1998). It makes me sad that it was ignored. But both 1997 and 1998 were horrible years for acting nominations.

  • 28 10-14-2010 at 8:23 pm

    Lillie said...

    Carrey was tremendous as Andy Kaufman in Man on the Moon–and he got snubbed, which pissed me off. I see that happening again for I Love You Phillip Morris, even though I have no doubt that I will feel about his performance the way Kris does. I’ve been waiting for this film to be released stateside for well over a year. It looks great!!

  • 29 10-15-2010 at 1:49 am

    Glenn said...

    The best thing about “Phillip Morris” is that, if you click into it, you’ll be too busy laughing your arse off to notice the dud jokes that slip through every now and then. Overall though it is truly one of the most consistently funny movies of the last few years. In fact, with this, “Four Lions”, “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work” and “City Island” (not to mention the dramedy laughs of “The Kids are All Right”, the poignant chuckles of “Toy Story 2” and the, ahem, insane wtf hilarity of “Celine: Through the Eyes of the World”), 2010 has proven to be a rock solid year for comedy.

    As for Carrey? I liked him, but for me Ewan McGregor was where it’s at. Perhaps my favourite McGregor performance, which says a lot!

  • 30 10-15-2010 at 4:59 am

    Douglas said...

    Jim Carrey was A M A Z I N G in Man on The Moon and the film itself was highly underrated. From that first bit with Andy and the record player to the last shot (one of my favourite ever) with Paul Giamatti clapping at the back of the audience (what a tease).
    Awesome, awesome film.

  • 31 10-15-2010 at 5:03 am

    Douglas said...

    Favourite Jim Carrey Performance?
    1.Man on the Moon
    2.Eternal Sunshine
    3.Me, Myself & Irene
    4.Truman Show
    5.Dumb & Dumber (yeh i know)

  • 32 10-15-2010 at 6:43 am

    Sawyer said...

    1. Eternal Sunshine
    2. Truman Show
    3. Yes Man
    4. Man on the Moon
    5. Lemony Snicket (I like this movie more than most people)

  • 33 10-15-2010 at 11:50 am

    Simon Warrasch said...

    I saw that Movie and Jim Carrey was outstanding! Like in 1999 when the Academy ignored Jim Carrey for his phenomenal performance in The Truman Show and one year later when the Academy ignored him again for such a brilliant potray in Man on the Moon or 5 years later when the academy ignored him again for such a great performance in The Eternal Sunshine of a Spottless Mind the academy will ignore him for the 4th time this year for one of the best performances of the year in I love you Phillip Morris! I have no Idea what’s going on in the heads of the Academy Members! I have NO Idea! It’s saad and it’s poor but they are the Academy!

    Leading Actor (My Favourites)

    Colin Firth – The King’s Speech
    Ryan Gosling – Blue Valentine
    Javier Bardem – Biutiful
    Andy Serkis – Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll
    James Franco – 127 Hours
    Vincent Gallo – The Essential Killing
    Jim Carrey – I Love you Phillip Morris
    Stephen Dorff – Somewhere