For some the words independent film might translate to “boring artsy film” but hopefully this column will change your mind. I aim to introduce you to some newly released low-budget films on various mediums, from Netflix Instant Watch, DVD, and theater.
New on Netflix Instant Watch is the film “I Love You, Phillip Morris” staring Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor. First seen at the Sundance Film Festival and then later at Cannes Film Festival the following year, this film has made a splash on the indie-scene as a humorous fact-based romantic comedy based on the 1980s real life con-artist Steven Jay Russell, who falls in love with his prison cell-mate, Phillip Morris.
Steve (Carrey) begins the film on his deathbed, reflecting back on his rambunctious life. A search for his biological mother, (who gave him up for adoption) leads with a door literally slammed in his face. A car crash after this rejection brings Steve to an epiphany; Steve divorces his wife, Debbie (Leslie Mann), leaves his daughter and explores his life as his true self, an outrageously funny gay man. Poking fun at the materialistic nature of the upper-elite gay social network, Steve turns to fraud and identity theft to keep up with his money-consuming lifestyle. After a string of cat and mouse Steve, finally ends up in jail and that is where he meets Phillip Morris (McGregor).
The opening of the film sets the audience up for all of Steve’s craziness; “Love sure is a funny thing. It makes you happy, makes you sad, makes you do all sorts of crazy things you never thought you’d do before. In fact, love is why I’m laying here dying,” Steve says. Steve then does something crazy for the state of love: he throws himself down flights of stairs, stages slipping on olive oil in the supermarket, fakes being a lawyer, fakes being a CEO of a company and steals millions of dollars, and even fakes his own death in the most shocking ways. You also get to watch poor Phillip dazed and confused, but always in awe, of Steve willing to do anything to prove his love for Phillip. These antics keep you laughing throughout the movie.
Maybe you haven’t seen “I Love You, Phillip Morris,” but perhaps you saw the more recent film “Crazy, Stupid, Love,” written by Dan Fogelman. Both films are directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa. Requa and Ficarra also wrote the script for “I Love You, Phillip Morris,” which began their official careers. The film may not be the next Oscar winner but it’s great to see Carrey return to non-Hollywood roles. Carrey has comedic range, pacing and skill that newcomers of the business could only dream of. McGregor’s quiet but sincere voice makes him a sympathetic character to relate to. He’s the boyfriend always left in mystery, and forever in awe of the crazy shenanigans that Carrey puts him through.