The Grifters meets Brokeback Mountain?

I Love You Phillip Morris

i_love_you_phillip_morris

Initially I love you Phillip Morris came across as The Grifters meets Brokeback Mountain with elements of  the hit TV series Prison Break thrown in. An inventive film which clearly does not shy away from the truth of the picaresque tales of a con man and who gives a whole new slightly skewed definition of going off the straight and narrow. Jim Carrey plays Steve Russell who after a car accident dumps his religious Southern wife, a lovely performance by Leslie Mann and flings open the closet doors and moves to Key West, getting a boyfriend in tow. Discovering that gay lifestyles are expensive, Russell becomes a conman, whose childhood memories of identity are shattered by his parents breaking the news that he is adopted, hence not really knowing or worrying about his true identity or sense of self.

Russell lands up in prison due to a series of felonies and in Texas of all states. There he meets and falls in love with Phillip Morris a mild, naive and slightly muted performance by Ewan McGregor whose understated  role matches the flamboyance and colourful character of Russell played with panache and relish by Jim Carrey. The fact that they have met in a prison is indicative of the type of relationship which is both trapped by personal circumstances and the larger social system, filled with repression, occasional violence masking as homoeroticism. Fun is made of the relationships of male prisoners and sometimes of the issues of exchange and bartering within that confined environment, both sexual and physical.

What really makes I love you Philip Morris so compelling as a film is that it is a true story which took place entirely during the Bush administration, whilst also proving that Jim Carrey can take on more complex characters. The downside is that this remarkable piece of cinema is lacking in any uniformity of vision co-directed by John Requa and Glen Ficarara, who are certainly not the Coen brothers. So the visual style lacks in moments which could emphasize the dramatic and downplay the outrageous element of the narrative. To label this as a gay film would be incorrect for that would do injustice to such masterpieces as Tom Ford’s stylish A Single Man and Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain.

This is more a film about gay men who try to buck the system in a state as notoriously conservative as it is equally contradictory, Texas and the bizarre consequences that follow.

grifters

As the tagline suggests The Conman that wouldn’t go straight is apt and while this is no classic is it is definitely an entertaining if not slightly disturbing piece of cinema and not for those easily offended. It fills the gap between The Grifters and the possibility of there being a Gay sequel to that brilliant Stephen Frears film sans Annette Bening.

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