The events in this film are true ones — which makes it possible to enjoy the seemingly impossible misadventures of pathological con man Steven Russell (Jim Carrey) for what they are. If it were fiction, you’d roll your eyes at the ridiculous stretching you would need to do to suspend your disbelief. This may force some comparisons to Catch Me If You Can, but as the title implies, Russell’s motives are not eluding the authorities or even his own gain, but instead are for caring for those who most matter to him. He’s not greedy or a narcissist, he’s a guy who just wants to do right by his family, be it his wife and daughter or the love of his life, Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor). Russell’s story is simply unbelievable — and all true.
We can debate all day and night as to why Hollywood casts straight actors in gay roles (see this film’s polar opposite, Brokeback Mountain, where the struggle comes from hiding their love rather than supporting it), but for this film, Carrey and McGregor as simply the best big-name choices. No-name actors might have killed this movie, which would be a tragedy. My readers know of my appreciation of Carrey’s acting skills, particularly in the twin arenas of great falseness and true sincerity. Carrey’s natural cock of the walk attitude suits Russell’s effortless impersonations. McGregor need only set his glassine, dreamy eyes to “in love” and you believe in his feelings to his core. He’s great at the aw-shucks and he’s strong enough to match Carrey. Mann gets to show us her non-Apatow side and she too can keep up with Carrey in a scene.
Russell meets Morris in prison, after the former was imprisoned for various moneymaking schemes he devised to support his newly adopted gay lifestyle and lover (Rodrigo Santoro). Before he accepted his homosexuality, he was an aggressively normal husband to Leslie Mann, living on the down-low and existing wrapped in lies, searching for who he really is. However, once he meets Morris, he opens like a flower, giving his heart with all honesty of feeling — but his need to lie about who he is continues, keeping his love alive and happy at any cost. Some of those costs lead to more legal misadventures and cross-purposes with McGregor. Through it all he adores Morris, and they have true happiness. His facility with pretending makes for some serious hilarity. What’s most enjoyable about the movie is how funny it is, and also how very romantic and sweet. It’s heartfelt and has an ending you will not see coming so don’t Google it! Let the movie take you there.
MPAA Rating R- sexual content including strong dialogue, and language.
Release date 12/3/10
Time in minutes 100
Director Glenn Ficarra, John Fequa
Studio Roadside Attractions