Rarely will you see a film review in this space. But I feel a certain responsibility since the media portrayal of gays was my first campaign back in the early 1970s. This film has hit a sensitive spot that calls for response, and it’s so retro it takes us back to the early days of Gay Liberation and what we were fighting against. Meet “I Love You Phillip Morris.”
By far the worst LGBT film of 2010, let’s put this as gently as we can: It’s the Amos and Andy film of gay people. The two (and only) gay characters are Steven Russell, played by Jim Carrey, who is a con man, and Phillip, played by Ewan McGregor, a big-hearted romantic who is a little short in the brains department. As they stumble from one adventure to another, you can almost hear in the background, “Feet don’t fail me now.” And in the courtroom, you certainly can imagine, “Here comes the judge.”
Add to that the mandatory scene of a swishy half-drag Carrey and we have a stereotypical gay character we have not seen in decades. It’s a giant step backward for gays in cinema. Vito Russo, writer of “The Celluloid Closet” — the definitive book of the history of gays in film — is turning over in his grave. Sorry, Vito.
Some of us thought we were beyond such a cheap depiction of our lives. The film tries to get past that by pretending to be a satire, but all the jokes, gags and set-ups are cliché. Even when the main character comes out, it’s what is commonly called by stand-up comedians a “gay out,” a phrase coined by David Brenner.
This film plays to the worst stereotypes while pretending to be entertainment. It’s disguised as a film for sophisticated individuals in large metropolitan urban cities. The problem is it is in wide release. One question: Would you want this film to be the first film about gays people see? Just imagine someone in Mississippi or Alabama watching the swishy thief — and, oh, let’s not forget his ex-lover/kept boy who, to add a little sympathy to the story, dies of AIDS.
Yes, this is the perfect film about gay men your right-wing Christian Republican wants to see. A swishy thief who either dies or ends up in prison. I won’t even discuss the depiction of their intimate relationship. There is just so much wrong with this film, it’s as if the writer and director were trying way too hard to make John McCain smile.
Are there any redeeming factors? This should answer that question. According to this film, life in prison is pretty good for gay guys, since we can buy most anything we want and fall in love. Maybe the hidden point is that prison is a place to put gays: They’ll be very happy there and we’re doing them a favor.
A film with gay characters can still be trash. And that’s where this film belongs, in a trashcan.
Mark Segal is PGN publisher. He is the nation’s most-award-winning commentator in LGBT media, having recently received the 2010 Columnist of the Year Award from the 2,000-member Suburban Newspapers of America. He can be reached at [email protected].