Is Sundance debut “I Love You Phillip Morris” off the market?
In a look at Sundance ’09 films that still haven’t sold, Eric Kohn wrote — for The Wrap — that Glenn Ficarra and John Requa’s “Phillip Morris,” starring big names Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor as lovers, is off the market. Apparently, like other star driving independent productions such as “The Greatest,” with Pierce Brosnan and Susan Sarandon, “Brief Interviews with Hideous Men” with John Krasinski, “Paper Hearts” with Michael Cera, the Carrey/MCGregor film faced a tough time making an immediate deal out of the festival.
Kohn wrote for The Wrap:
Considered a hot property in the weeks prior to the festival, the tonally complex film left many distributors scratching their heads after its Sundance premiere — even though some of those who passed said they enjoyed it. The simple fact: They could not envision the film finding an audience.
According to producer Andrew Lazar, it is no longer on the market and the production company plans to announce a theatrical deal “very soon.” But during the festival, the filmmakers said they intended to continue editing the film — turning its premiere into a de facto work-in-progress screening — so it remains unclear how the newer version will play.
Writing about the film for indieWIRE back at Sundance, Kohn offered a snapshot look at the movie:
“’I Love You Philip Morris’ is the “Brokeback Mountain” of American movie comedies, but that alone doesn’t make it especially good. Taking cues from the true story of gay con man Steven Russell (Jim Carrey) and his prison lover Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor), co-directors Jon Requa and Glenn Ficara assemble a crass, tonally uneven romantic dramedy that undulates in quality with nearly every scene change. Steven’s early years as a married closet case play like deadpan satire of American conservatism; when the character winds up in jail for his fraudulent behavior, the script shifts to raunchy lowbrow jokes, as if hailing from the universe of the Farrelly brothers. Then, for a few brief moments, it’s a quiet tragedy—with elements of “The Shawshank Redemption” oddly turning up—and, finally, it pulls together the whole package for a mess of moods in the final minutes.
But the finale of ‘Phillip Morris’ vastly improves on the earlier sections for precisely this reason. Both darkly comic and vaguely humorous, it finally hits a unique note—not to mention a familiar one: Requa and Ficarra, making their directorial debut, co-wrote the brilliantly downbeat holiday comedy ‘Bad Santa’, and elements of that movie’s gritty humor exist in certain parts of ‘Phillip Morris’. Unfortunately, Carrey seems miscast as the slick anti-hero, which deals a serious blow to the believability factor in several key scenes—particularly the ones requiring him to cuddle with McGregor. Their intimacy plays for simplistic jokes that lend an unrealistic quality to the relationship. The time has arrived where a project like this shouldn’t necessarily represent a bold move for contemporary movie stars—which is why they shouldn’t feel pressured to do it.”
Over at Variety, Peter Debruge was more upbeat in a review. “Less of a comedy than a hilarious tragedy,” he wrote, “it will leave auds both laughing and stunned. The rawness of the script by helmers Glenn Ficarra and John Requa and sexual bluntness of Carrey and Ewan McGregor’s onscreen romance could limit the film’s exposure, but curiosity about Carrey’s ‘conversion’ will be a big draw. And no one can say that all involved weren’t swinging for the fences.”