The road to release can be a long and grueling one for certain films. I Love You Phillip Morris can attest to it. While many factors contribute to the thought process of how and when a movie should be released, many believe the problem here came from the explicit homosexual content. Despite not having much of a problem finding a distributor in foreign countries, American distributors were hesitant to pick it up because homosexuality is still considered taboo and frowned upon (though it’s about time we all grow up and get over it). It’s a sad predicament because I Love You Phillip Morris is quite good. I don’t find myself bitter that I had to wait so long to see it—it’s no masterpiece—but now that I have, I’m glad I did.
Of course, the stated reason it took so long to find a distributor is purely speculative. In all honesty, I Love You Phillip Morris is a tough film to sell. It’s based on a true story of Steven Russell (Jim Carrey), a church going man with a wife and a kid. He’s even a cop and has sworn it as his duty to protect the law. Except all of that is a lie. He is gay, he doesn’t seem to be all that religious and he’s a con man. One day, on his way back from a rendezvous with one of his lovers, he decides to come out to his wife and live the way he wants to, as an openly gay man. However, his illegal, conniving ways catch up with him and he is thrown in jail. While incarcerated, he meets Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor) and falls in love.
While it may sound like your typical romance where two lovebirds meet under the unlikeliest of circumstances, it’s not and that’s why the marketing department has had such trouble with it. Its demographic isn’t clear. Its intended audience clearly isn’t conservatives, but to be fair, they aren’t the only ones that can feel uncomfortable with the subject matter. Its homosexual nature can irk even the most liberal of viewers. Older folks, set in their old ways, may find this morally wrong, while younger audiences are too immature to watch a movie about two people of the same sex falling in love. Is I Love You Phillip Morris for anybody?
I think so. It’s for the people who can look past the explicit male on male sex scenes and see the surprisingly sweet love story surrounding them. In that regard, I guess I’m the target audience. The lengths Steven goes to see Phillip, sometimes even putting his life in real danger, is something anybody who believes in love (of all kinds) can relate to.
Still, I Love You Phillip Morris is a bit uneven. It suffers from subplots that give a flimsy reason for the duo to have some money in a context that makes them feel extraneous to the main story and the latter half stumbles by giving us too much rather than keeping it simple. In what is essentially an overlong montage, Steven breaks out of multiple jails, which is meant to show how cunning he can be (and how strong his love is), but previous plot points (like when he fakes his way into a position as the CFO at a major company) have already done enough to get that point across.
With all this talk of love, I’d almost forgotten to mention this is a comedy more than anything else and a funny one at that. The laughs are sporadic, but the ones that work are hilarious. The climax of the movie at first feels out of place due to what seems like melodramatics, but when the incredible twist comes, you’ll feel like a fool for having jumped to that conclusion. This final satisfying cinematic sucker punch sends the film out with a bang. It’s clever, funny and, most of all, it makes sense. The habitually drab nature of Hollywood means we end up watching the same old song and dance over and over again. I Love You Phillip Morris breaks that trend.
I Love You Phillip Morris receives 3.5/5