Dec. 4 (Bloomberg) -- Willie Sutton said he robbed banks “because that’s where the money is.” Steven Russell stole for a different reason.
“Being gay is really expensive,” Russell (Jim Carrey) explains in “I Love You Phillip Morris,” a quirky dramedy based on a true story about the con man, bon vivant and prison-escape artist.
It’s a good part for Carrey, whose previous attempts at melding comedy and drama have mostly fallen flat. Here he gets to dig into a sympathetic role that doesn’t limit him to caricatures or making rubber faces.
Though he’s a devious criminal, Russell’s prison escapes and most of his illicit activities are motivated by his desire to be with his lover Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor), an inmate he meets while serving time for insurance fraud.
With a fair amount of raunchy humor, writer/directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa detail the colorful escapades that got Russell in and out of prison, including posing as a lawyer and faking a resume to get a job as a chief financial officer.
The film, based on a book by Steve McVicker, opens with Russell living placidly as a married cop with a daughter and an ultra-religious wife. He has an epiphany following a car crash and decides to come out of the closet, leave his family and move to Miami, where he finances his lavish lifestyle by collecting insurance for fake accidents.
Cooking the Books
Russell and Morris live together after being released from prison, where Morris was sent for failing to return a rental car. Russell then cooks the books as CFO of a Texas company, using purloined funds to buy sports cars and other luxuries. That leads him back to prison, where he concocts an AIDS-related scheme to get out.
Don’t look for a happy ending. The real Russell is currently serving a 144-year sentence in Texas, where he spends all but one hour of each day in solitary confinement.
“I Love You Phillip Morris,” from Roadside Attractions, is playing in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Rating: ***
‘All Good Things’
Creepy real-estate heir Robert Durst is the thinly veiled subject of “All Good Things,” a thriller in which very bad things happen to people close to him.
His wife disappears, a longtime friend is murdered and a neighbor’s body parts are found floating off Galveston, Texas, where Durst has been hiding out disguised as a mute woman.
Director Andrew Jarecki (“Capturing the Friedmans”) has enough macabre material for a slasher film and an impressive cast led by Ryan Gosling, Kirsten Dunst and Frank Langella. Yet the film gets bogged down with tabloid details and pop psychology better suited for a TV crime show.
Gosling plays David Marks, who like Durst was traumatized as a child by witnessing his mother’s suicide. After marrying Katie (Dunst) and moving to Vermont to run a health-food store, David is pressured by his strong-willed father (Langella) to return to New York and join the family business.
Arguments over whether to have children and David’s increasingly bizarre behavior cause Katie to hire a divorce lawyer. She disappears soon after, and David claims he has no idea where she is.
He later moves to Galveston and befriends a drifter (Philip Baker Hall), whose cut-up corpse is discovered in the local bay. Meanwhile, a female friend of David’s is killed execution-style in her Los Angeles home just before she’s scheduled to talk to authorities about Katie’s disappearance.
I won’t tell you what happened to Durst, except to say that he isn’t in a cell next to Steven Russell.
“All Good Things,” from Magnolia Pictures, is playing in New York and Dec. 10 in Los Angeles. Rating: **1/2
What the Stars Mean: **** Excellent *** Good ** Average * Poor (No stars) Worthless
(Rick Warner is the movie critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)
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