Saturday, March 5, 2011

Week of March 4 to March 10 (Mann)

What’s on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann

Okay, get ready for some fun. I LOVE YOU PHILLIP MORRIS isn’t about cigarettes, and it’s not even about Phillip Morris, a sweet and lovely gay man who is the love object of the story (Ewan McGregor, whom we last saw in the title role of The Ghost Writer). Rather it’s the true story of a con man to top all con men named Steven Russell, who was a lawyer when he needed to spring his buddy Phillip from jail, a health-care company executive when he needed to embezzle money, and even a terminal AIDS patient when he needed a way to get out of prison himself.

This new film recalls Catch Me If You Can, the 2002 tale of a similar character. But Leonardo DiCaprio, as talented as he is, can’t match Jim Carrey as a manic manipulator. The real life Russell began life as a regular straight citizen, a policeman no less, but quickly transformed himself into a gay playboy in South Beach (not merely gay but "gay, gay, gay, gay, gay" as he puts it in a voiceover). And into all those other characters and personas, and eventually to jail where he meets Phillip as his cellmate.

Once out of jail, they become rich, ridiculously rich, until Russell’s over-the-top antics bring the cops calling again. This all comes naturally to the heterosexual Carrey, the kind of guy who famously shot back, when asked in a Sundance press conference how it felt to kiss Ewan McGregor: "A dream come true! I mean, look at the guy!"

Some commentators have suggested that I Love You Phillip Morris has had trouble finding a distributor despite the star power of its lead actors because it’s “too gay.” It’s telling that the writer-director team of Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, who had a successful box office track record with movies like Bad Santa and Cats and Dogs had to turn to a French production company for financing. Well down here in the Conch Republic, we don’t care about the gender preference of a movie that “crackles with deadpan wit and dark satire” ( Enjoy.

Also opening this week is MADE IN DAGENHAM, another film based on real events. Rita O’Grady (Sally Hawkins from Happy-Go-Lucky) is a worker at a Ford plant outside London who becomes the spokeswoman for a strike over equal pay. The year is 1968, when feminism was on the move in England as in the States, and Rita is fortunate to have a sympathetic female cabinet minister in charge of labor relations (Miranda Richardson) and the backing of the plant manager’s disaffected wife (Rosamund Pike). The women prevail, of course, and their actions led to enactment of the British Equal Pay Act. The movie, however, is no documentary lecture. Waggishly described as Norma Rae meets Calendar Girls, it combines sharp performances by the women and by Bob Hoskins as the local union leader, and some cheeky bits like the ladies stripping down to their undies on hot days in the plant, to create a delightfully entertaining movie based on fact.” (Roger Ebert)

Held over are the Academy Award Winners for Best Picture, THE KING’S SPEECH; and for Best Documentary, INSIDE JOB; as well as the Oscar nominated 127 HOURS and BIUTIFUL.

The Special Events calendar is headed by the Bolshoi Ballet from Moscow with DON QUIXOTE, live on Sunday morning at 11:00am EST (7pm in Moscow) with an encore showing at 7:00pm EST.

There will also be repeat showings of Kevin Rhoades’s MY NEW LIFE hosted by the filmmaker and his film-critic father Shirrel on Saturday and Sunday. And Monday night brings the opening of the Classics series for March. The theme for the month is Incredible Ingrid Bergman, and the first film is the spy thriller NOTORIOUS starring Ms. Bergman, Cary Grant and Claude Rains.

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[from Key West, the newspaper --]

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