Thursday, 18 March 2010

I Love You Philip Morris

Steven Russell is an average, everyday hard-working family man with a lovely wife and 2 children. He's also gay. After being rejected by his birth mother, Russell decides leave his old life behind, move to Florida and turns to a life of crime to pay for the extravagant lifestyle he and his boyfriend have become accustomed to. After getting caught and sent to prison, he falls in love with a young man called Philip Morris, and so begins Russell's mission to get them both free and to live the life he wants for them both.

To be completely honest, this film is somewhat underwhelming. It never truly works as a proper comedy film apart from a few choice moments and characters, Carrey and McGregor not included. The film has so many dark undertones throughout, it makes it a much more serious affair than you'd be led to believe by the lighthearted trailer. Don't be fooled. Yes, you'll get a few laughs out of it, but the rest of it will make you sit back and wonder just how on earth the real Steven Russell got away with what he did before he was finally caught once and for all.

Carrey's performance of Russell is pretty convincing, and he seems to be a perfect fit for the character, especially during Russell's moments of self-injury as part of his multiple insurance frauds. McGregor's role of Morris could, however, have been played by anyone decent-looking, and the film really plays up to the fact it's Ewan McGregor playing a gay man. The film seems to exploit the relationship between Russell and Morris rather than portray it for what it was in reality. They get the obligatory gay jokes in with Carrey and McGregor and Carrey with various others, and they certainly make the most of Carrey and McGregor's multiple kisses throughout the film, but that seems to be almost the only reason this film exists: Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor as a gay couple, not to document Steven Russell's amazing story.

Watching this film, I noticed two moments which made the audience whisper in excitement: First, the moment where Brennan Brown (the guy from the Orange 'Turn your mobile phone off' adverts) turns up as an executive at the insurance company where Russell cons his way into a high powered job. Secondly, albeit more hushed, was at the end, when over the top of the final few scenes, they begin to play the same aria Tim Robbins plays in The Shawshank Redemption over the PA system as a subtle nod to the classic prison breakout movie. These moments held no great significance toward the film though, and will undoubtedly be the other things for which people remember the film, because there are absolutely no good, quotable lines to take away from this movie. The sign of a good comedy is to have its audience leave the screen quoting classic lines and laughing, not discussing Steven Russell's ultimate con: Faking his own slow death by AIDS.

Overall, this film is a bit of a disappointment. I had high hopes for this film, but it seemed to fall short in every category, which was a real shame, because it had so much potential. The story is an amazing one to tell, and most of the humour that comes from this film comes from the story rather than any particular line. Jim Carrey's great to watch, and does what he needs to do well, playing the funny-serious guy he's now become accustomed to playing. It's just a real shame that I didn't love I Love You Philip Morris.

Rating: ***

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Crazy Heart

Otis "Bad" Blake is a down-and-out, washed up country music star, reduced to playing bowling alleys and small town bars, before he is offered a chance of redemption in the form of both a new relationship with a young journalist, Jean, and the renewal of the professional relationship with his protege, Tommy Sweet, a country music sensation.

This film is all about Jeff Bridges. He delivers a pretty near perfect performance as "Bad" Blake, an alcoholic, washed up country music singer/songwriter. Everything about his performance; from the dialogue he delivers with perfect pace to the small nuances which helped create a thoroughly believable character, and not forgetting the surprisingly excellent musical performances where Bridges not only plays guitar and sings like somebody who's been doing it for decades, but at the same time delivers an acting performance, depicting a tired alcoholic country singer, that is simply second to none. Take Mickey Rourke's intricate and emotional performance in 'The Wrestler' as Randy "The Ram" Robinson, combine it with Joaquin Phoenix's confident performance in 'Walk the Line' as Johnny Cash and add Jeff Bridges' natural enthusiasm and above-standard ability and you start to get some idea as to why Jeff Bridges went home with the Academy Award for Best Actor (finally) on Sunday night.

As for the rest of the cast, Maggie Gyllenhaal delivers everything she needs to as best as she can. Unfortunately, it's just not that good. Don't get me wrong, she tries, she really does. The problem is she just doesn't seem to be able to connect with her characters. Every emotion seems the same and every line delivery seems the same as well. It's only when scenes are hyper-emotional like when she learns her son has gone missing in a crowded mall or when she refuses Blake entry to her house that she is able to deliver SOME emotion, but not as much as it seems to be. It's hard to tell whether she's made to look better by Jeff Bridges or whether she's completely out-acted. No matter what, she's forced to take a back seat to 'The Dude'. Colin Farrell turning up as Tommy Sweet was a surprise, it's the cameo you don't hear about - I compare it to Bill Murray turning up in 'Zombieland': It makes the entire cinema audience whisper his name in hushed excitement. As a southern country singer though, Colin seems to be wrestling with the accent too much to be able to deliver a performance for a character who's supposed to be better than "Bad" Blake. He's not, and it's painfully clear too.

The film overall is very up and down. It's depiction of a washed-up alcoholic country star going through the twilight of his career is very good, but it just seems as if the film is trying to do too much with the little time it has: Blake gets a girlfriend, Blake's playing concerts, Blake's working for Tommy, Blake's trying to sober up, Blake's holding grudges, Blake's forgiving people. Jeff's been made to work hard to try and get everything down, but he pulls it off, and does it with real style too. The direction is nothing special, but it doesn't need to be, the acting performances say everything that needs to be said for this film. Oh, and not forgetting the music, which is superbly written and fits "Bad" Blake's persona and style of performance perfectly. Listen to 'The Weary Kind' and you'll understand why it won Best Original Song on Sunday as well.

Last year, Mickey Rourke delivered an acting performance in 'The Wrestler' which immediately made that film one of my favourite films of all time. This year, Jeff Bridges has done exactly the same. Mickey and Jeff have proved one thing without a doubt: Old school's cool.

Rating: ****