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I Like You Phillip Morris

Saturday, February 13, 2010

I Love You Phillip Morris

Dirs: John Requa & Glenn Ficarra

It occasionally happens, for reasons I’m not privy to, that a film will get a major release here in Taiwan before anywhere else in the world (same thing happened with The Dark Knight, which came out here on the Thursday before the Friday of everywhere else); for that release to come more than a month before the U.S. release, though, is quite surprising to me.  Although it does make sense for Taiwan to be selected as the lead Asian market for what is a thoroughly, unabashedly gay love story — while I have no specific proof I can use to back this up, Taiwan appears to have the largest gay community in Asia, and certainly one of the most generally tolerant societies (oh wait, I do have proof — it says on Wikipedia that “the most recent (Pride) parade, held in October 2009, attracted approximately 25,000 participants, making it the largest gay pride event in Asia).

But of course all that should be neither here nor there (though it undoubtedly will be the main focus when it gets its wide U.S. release) — when you’re discussing a movie it should always be centred solely around the merits of the movie, not whether it’s a ‘hetero’ movie or a ‘homo’ movie or a ‘xeno’ movie (yes, there have been some xenosexual movies).

In that vein, I would have to say this is a very decent movie that is going to get killed by its own marketing.  Because the distributors are probably going to shy away from the love-story aspects of the film out of a fear that it would hurt the box office, it seems like they’re going to try and market it as a comedy, sort of in a ‘The Birdcage‘ kind of way; I have the idea that they feel audiences would shy away from the film if they realized it’s actually a very dramatic love story with merely some funny bits here and there.  And maybe they’re right — we are talking about general audiences here; maybe ‘the family unit’ can handle gay themes in strictly campy ways, but they would get uncomfortable seeing men actually expressing love for each other and kissing like they mean it (although after Brokeback Mountain — made by a Taiwanese director, I should add — maybe that bridge has already been crossed as well).

At any rate, regardless of how the film fares monetarily, Jim Carrey can at least hold his head up high in that this is undoubtedly the best performance of his career (along with maybe Man on the Moon).  He’s always been annoying when he’s been predominately stupid (Ace Ventura), and not often fully convincing when going for full-on drama (The Majestic), but succeeded, like in MotM, when he’s been able to use a mix of both, and of course that’s what he gets to do here.  Playing notorious real life con-man Steven Jay Russell, a man with (at least in the movie) a conflicted past and big heart, gives him the opportunity to move from passionate to playful, sly to silly, in such a way that he takes control without being overpowering, and the pathos he generates, while slightly forced, feels honestly come by.

Ewan McGregor, as the Phillip Morris of the title (no relation to the tobacco company), is also quite good in his supporting role as Carrey’s sweet and gentle love interest, and it’s the emotional interactions between these two which really drive the film forward.  The script is solid, in terms of the plotting and dialogue, though it does suffer a bit from, as I mentioned earlier, the pathos being slightly forced; they really push the idea that ‘everything he did, he did it for love.’  Which probably has seeds of truth in it, but of course, when judging the way a movie works, even if you can accept getting hit over the head with something, you’re still going to have that slight bruising afterwards, and so that’s how I would have to sum up my reaction to the film: good, but slightly bruising.  It’s definitely worth seeing, especially for Carrey’s and McGregor’s performances, but be prepared for some smushiness (is that a word?).

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Monday, February 15, 2010 1:12 am

    ‘Tis odd that the notoriously way more bootleg-friendly Asian market would get movies first (Korea’s the same way), but then, maybe it isn’t — after all, if they can’t import bootlegs made during an earlier North American release, they may be more likely to pony up the dough to see it theatrically.

    I’m sure the reverse can now happen, with NA’ers finding handycam vids of movies like this, but NA’ers aren’t as likely to. Either way, seems a same-day global release would help solve that tiny little sliver of the bootlegging problem. Which is possible for giant juggernaut releases, but I’d imagine littler flicks like this one do have to do some fighting to get their theatre time, so widely separate releases in different markets may not be a strategic move at all. Maybe it’s just what they had to agree to to get it released there at all.

    And we’re getting the limited release near the end of April, so more than two months later.

    And “smushiness” … Is that a gay thing? Sounds kinda hot.

    • Monday, February 15, 2010 9:45 am

      My best guess for the release date is that the N.A. one was supposed to have happened already (last year even, I think) but they kept pushing it back for some reason.

      So maybe the Taiwan one was already locked in from one of those previous arrangements and they didn’t bother changing it.

  2. Tuesday, February 16, 2010 11:22 pm

    This is a film that should have been in 3D, on account of Mr. Ewan McGregor’s penis.

  3. Wednesday, February 17, 2010 12:17 am

    That guy’s done so much full frontal that future generations will have enough reference material to recreate his wang in perfect detail.

  4. Saturday, February 20, 2010 4:34 am

    Except for the small problem that his penis does not actually appear in the film.

  5. Saturday, February 20, 2010 10:29 am


  1. I Like You Phillip Morris « The Culturatti | Drakz News Station

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