Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Jim and Ewan or Tom ? + Brad, George, Tilda etc

I LOVE YOU PHILIP MORRIS tells us the "true story" of Steven Russell (Jim Carrey), a supposedly happy married man with a good job who in reality is a gay con man. In one of his many visits to jail, he falls in love with Phillip Morris, delightfully played by Ewan McGregor. The jokes are provocative and will offend quite a few people - such as the first in-your-face depiction of his secret life, or his faking his death from AIDS - hence, presumably, it's delay in getting a USA release. It has been and gone here in the UK without causing much of a ripple and the dvd is now out.

I don't usually see many Jim Carrey movies, but he convinces here as, after a car accident, he reassesses his life, and decides that he is truly gay, and he leaves his old life behind. He moves to Miami and finds a boyfriend, but to live the life he wants he admits that "being gay is expensive" (if you want expensive watches, matching cars, a dream home etc), and so begins a life as a conman. Steven gives up being a cop to cause his own accidents to get compensation, lying to banks and so much more besides, and the police eventually catch up to him and send him to prison - not once but several times. It is in prison that Steven sees and falls almost instantly in love with fellow prisoner Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor), and they find themselves smitten with each other and by making deals get to share a cell.

Glenn Ficarra & John Requa - who gave us the enjoyable BAD SANTA, have handled this tragi-comic tale with a lot of realism as well as fantasy all wrapped up in bright colours. The main problem for me is that Stephen eventually becomes thoroughly unlikeable and blind to the fact that it is his endless lies and deceit that cause his downfall over and over again. The early scenes such as his tracking down his real mother (he was adopted) and his happy suburban life with Debbie and the kids and church are amusingly played (gays are equally satirised) as are his stunts for seeking compensation to fund his lifestyle. Once Stephen decides to be gay he becomes a super-gay moving to Miami with all the trimmings, although this lifestyle he's living is pretty expensive. It is not too long until the police catch up to him, but fate has a funny way of doing things and it is in prison where he meets his soul mate Phillip Morris (the very charming McGregor). Their romance blossoms in the prison and when they are released as well, but Steven continues to live a life of lies and sooner or later it will catch up to him again. And so it goes getting rather far-fetched with the Aids illness episodes. One has to admire the two actors for going at it full tilt. It will be interesting to see how it fares when it is finally released nationwide in the USA. It certainly flies in the face of all those small-town values - they will hate it in those Tea Bag areas! After this and Polanski's THE GHOST one certainly sees McGregor in a new light.

Now for LAWLESS HEART: also directed (and written) by two directors Tom Hunsinger and Neil Hunter: A 2001 indie film from England which is about compromise and rueful intelligence about matters of the heart rather like John Schlesinger's 1971 SUNDAY BLOODY SUNDAY, if without that film's elegance and glossy style. This is a modest production about the aftermath of a funeral in a small English seaside town. Stewart who owns a restuarant has died without making a will, leaving his lover Nick (Tom Hollander) at the mercy of Stewart's glum sister and her not very gay-friendly husband (Bill Nighy) and then drifter Douglas Henshall arrives back in town after several years. How these characters inter-relate is the tale, as we see events from their 3 different perspectives. Nighy is a marvel of believability as the older man, Dan as he is tempted to stray from his marriage; Tom Hollander is wonderfully pained and kind as the bereaved Nick putting up with everyone. Henshall as Tim becomes fascinating as we take an instant dislike to him and his leeching ways, as he starts as a very selfish character, but we slowly warm to him as the picture goes on, he too has to lose the woman he loves, and he resolves the rather nice conclusion. It It is a pleasing low budget drama that takes its time to reveal very real and complex characters and emotions – end leaves one stimulated and ultimately happy.

Nick, numb with grief, first lets Tim stay with him but soon regrets it with all those late night parties and loud music. During a wild party Tim throws, Nick meets Charlie (Sukie Smith) a lively, feckless, not-too-bright local girl who ends up drunk in his bed after a casual shag with one of the locals, and he is drawn to her energy and high spirits and they become slowly involved. Hollander as ever is a revelation here - he has been quietly brilliant for years and has played quite a few gay roles without any fuss, here he is a gay man having a straight experience! Hollander had a big hit recently with his BBC tv series REV as a priest (photo below); I saw him on stage circa 1997 as Bosie to Liam Neeson's Oscar Wilde in David Hare's play THE JUDAS KISS (photo below), which was certainly a riveting experience. [Tom stripped, Liam didn't...]

LAWLESS HEART ends nicely after the money from Stewart's estate has been happily resolved (so Nick can move back to London) with our characters all sitting around watching home movies of the late departed Stewart who finally takes centre stage. It's nicely done, and resonated a lot with me (as I had a very similar experience back in the '90s).

A third movie also with two directors is that recent Coen Bros BURN AFTER READING, their latest comedy with those regular pals George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Tilda Swinton, here joined by Frances McDormand and John Malkovich. As with all Coen brother movies, there are going to be people who love it and people who hate it. There doesn't seem to be much middle ground. I found it entertaining, dark and very funny - I just didn't like their previous NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN at all. BURN does ramble around pointlessly, but best part of the movie is watching this great cast perform brilliantly with the odd-ball material they are given. There is violence, bad language, and everyone is sleeping with everyone else, especially George Clooney, as the off the wall plot involves a disk of supposed CIA secrets found by two dim gym trainers; Pitt is wonderfully funny here and so is McDormand who just wants 4 cosmetic surgeries! of course Tilda essays another steely ballbreaker. The Coens continue to put out intelligent, entertaining material and assemble fascinating casts. Quite short too - clocking in at 87 minutes - so many films these days are half an hour or more too long.

1 comment:

  1. I love that little tom hollander.

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