Cannes 2009: I Love You Phillip Morris

Yesterday he was Ebenezer Scrooge. Today he was a real-life gay con man.

Jim Carrey’s latest (live-action) vehicle, I Love You Phillip Morris, has been screened at Cannes, complete with ace on-stage intro from ol’ elasti-face himself.

Carrey won the crowd from the off by making jesting reference to the Palais Stephanie cinema as a “bunker built by the Resistance”. (“Don’t worry, you’re all safe down here!”)

He went on to describe the Phillip Morris script – by Bad Santa duo John Requa and Glenn Ricarra – as an utter no-brainer, up there with Eternal Sunshine and The Truman Show.

Regretting he couldn’t hang out all afternoon because of more Christmas Carol press duties, he took a sly pop at Disney: “I’m just a cog in the machine… a piece of cheese in the Mouse-trap!”

And with that he left us to enjoy the movie, based by Requa/Riccara (who also direct) on a true tale. Carrey’s Steven Russell starts off as a closet homosexual until a near-fatal car smash convinces him it’s coming-out time.

But his sexuality isn’t the story; the crux is Russell’s compulsive conning, which fast-tracks him to jail - where romance buds with the titular Phillip (Ewan McGregor), a fellow inmate.

To synopsize further would be to spoil a plot as slippery as Steven himself. Let’s just say that the biggest hoodwink offers the potential to offend, but is executed with ballsy conviction.

Carrey’s dynamite in a role that stretches his rubber chops much more than recent mediocrities like Yes Man. It’s one of his darker, edgier turns (a la The Cable Guy and Man On The Moon), psychologically complex but still plenty physical.

That said, the filmmakers dial down the funny around mid-way; meanwhile, McGregor plays straight man – so to speak – to Carrey from the get-go, in a sympathetic but largely reactive role.

Rollicking entertainment, though – a kind of Catch Me If You Can with an added dollop of mainstream man-lust.