I didn’t know what to expect from the makers of “Bad Santa” besides nudity, foul language and quirky, blush-provoking humor. And this romantic, comedy/drama packs a flowery, fucking shit load of it.
Starring a frayed-looking, bone-thin Jim Carrey (the leanness is a pivotal plot point) and a dewy-eyed Ewan McGregor, it is at once shocking, touching, irreverent and for my money, very brave. There is a reason it took so long to get a distributor.
The film, which premiered at Sundance in 2009, contains graphic gay sexual content, which long delayed it’s distribution possibilities in the US. Finally, Roadside Attractions and Liddell Entertainment picked up this story in which Carrey and McGregor play cellmates who fall in love.
“This really happened. It really did.”
The film’s writer/directors spell it out for us in the first frame. And I almost bought in until I read in the End Credits:
“A dramatization based on certain facts.”
Okay. Fine. Some of it happened and some of it didn’t. Which really doesn’t matter if it’s a GREAT story and as long as you don’t call it a memoir, right? (Someone ask James Frey.)
This was a doozy of a story, but great? Not so much. But I’d give it a 6 or 7.
The story begins with STEVE RUSSELL (Carrey) on his deathbed recalling the events that got him there. ( I know, you’ve never seen this device used either.) We know two things about him so far. He was adopted and is in a desperate search for the love he didn’t get from his mother. Oh, and secondly, when he looks at cloud formations, he sees giant penises.
A horrible car crash changes him from being happily married to sweet Texas Bible pounder, DEBBIE, played by Leslie Mann (The Cable Guy, Funny People) into a flamboyantly gay lothario in South Beach. His first boyfriend, JIMMY, played by hunky Rodrigo Santoro, (soon to star as Che in Steven Sodebergh’s new film of the same name) demands a lifestyle too rich for Steve’s wallet. Since Steve will do anything for love, he begins to con.
Lie, cheat, steal? He does it effortlessly. When the other shoe drops, Steve is sent to the slammer where he finds his true soulmate, PHILLIP MORRIS (McGregor). When they are separated, Steve finds he cannot be without his true love and hatches an elaborate plan to get them both out of jail and live the life they dream of together. And off we go! One impersonation wilder than the next until all dreams are realized. But is it too good to last?
I laughed out loud, was impressed at how restrained Carrey played this role, and was bowled over by Ewan McGregor’s committed performance. They played their love scenes with such passion and tenderness, it was hard to think of them as unusual in any way. A little squirming but, well…
Fun IMDB stuff: In the last scene in the courtroom, the real Phillip Morris can be seen standing next to Jim Carrey, and while on set in New Orleans at the Orleans Parish Prison, one of the extras dressed as an OPP inmate was arrested while putting belongings in his personal vehicle.
This film is rated R for raunchy and is set to open Dec. 3. unless a court order stops it. Running time: 102 minutes:
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Linda Bergman has worked for every major Hollywood film studio and all the top television networks. She has been paid to write 21 film and TV scripts and even produced 5 of them. In both of her books “So You Think Your Life’s a Movie: Ten Steps to a Script that Sells” and “So You Think Your Life’s a Movie: The Sequel,” Linda combines her knowledge of the craft with true stories from her experience to illustrate, inform and entertain. These books are a fun, must-read if you want to write a movie!