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Carrey's at his nimble best in gay-themed "Morris"

PARK CITY, Utah (Hollywood Reporter) - “I Love You Phillip Morris” doesn’t have anything to do with smoking, but that’s about the only thing it’s not connected to. The feature, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, is of the ethereal-absurdist-gay-romantic-biographical farce genre, which poses the question: How are they going to market this? Basically, just say Jim Carrey struts his stuff in this engaging oddity.

Carrey is at his nimble best as Steve, a Texas family man and lawman who bolts out of the closet into a life of, well, everything. He makes up for the lost years of a straight-arrow, heterosexual life by plunging headfirst into multiple lives as con man and lover. Based on a real-life character, Steve was abandoned at birth, and in the film’s glib psychology, he’s undertaking to find his real identity.

A charmer and a rascal, Steve enthusiastically embraces the high-gay lifestyle: vacationing, accessorizing, spending, dining, prowling. And he gets a first boyfriend, who is expensive. Like certain smitten males whose mates’ tastes outdistance their pocketbooks, Steve jumps headlong into the foolhardy: He embraces embezzlement, fraud and all sorts of chicanery to maintain his Rolex ways.

This fast life leads to the pokey, where he falls for a delicate fellow con, Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor). They spark and complement each other. In jail and out, the twosome attempt a conventional romantic relationship. Steve is the breadwinner, while Phillip holds down the hearth. True to his wild nature, Steve can’t contain himself. He reverts to his con-man ways.

It’s in these naughty parts where this inventive escapade shines: Carrey’s chameleonlike gyrations and falsifications as a flimflammer are deliciously funny. His comedic versatility and impersonations are amazing, but it’s in his character’s darkest recesses that he’s truly powerful. As the steadfast Phillip, McGregor is sympathetic and vulnerable. His heart is always ready to be broken.

Like Carrey’s character, the story and style are all over the place, rendering it somewhat inaccessible. Admittedly, the whole film is in a bit of an aesthetic dither that will confound many viewers. Still, filmmakers Glenn Ficarra and John Requa have concocted a frothy and misty amusement.

“Phillip Morris’” spry storytelling is wonderfully accessorized by production designer Hugo Luczyc-Wyhowski’s stylish furnishings and costume designer David C. Robinson’s vivid fashions.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter