The Films of Glen Ficarra and John Requa
I Love You Phillip Morris (April 17/11)
A remarkably strong debut, I Love You Phillip Morris follows Jim Carrey's Steven Russell as he embraces his homosexuality, abandons his wife (Leslie Mann's Debbie), and moves to Florida - where the character begins pulling off a series of increasingly elaborate con games. After one such illicit activity lands him in prison, Steven meets and falls for a fellow convict named Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor) - with the movie subsequently detailing the ups and downs of the pair's tumultuous relationship. Directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa have infused I Love You Phillip Morris with an off-kilter, thoroughly irreverent sensibility that proves instrumental at immediately capturing the viewer's interest, with the inherently fascinating (yet undeniably outlandish) premise employed to consistently engaging effect by the first-time filmmakers - as Ficarra and Requa heighten the movie's engrossing atmosphere by peppering the proceedings with a number of compelling elements. The film's most potent weapon is, of course, Carrey's absolutely stunning turn as the central character, as the actor does a superb job of adapting to the narrative's jarring shifts in tone (ie Ficarra and Requa's script often goes from wacky shenanigans to high drama within the space of just a few minutes, and Carrey effectively ensures that Steven remains a believable, captivating figure throughout). In the end, I Love You Phillip Morris is simply an intriguing story told exceedingly well - which certainly bodes well for Ficarra and Requa's future endeavors behind the camera.
Crazy, Stupid, Love.
Directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, Crazy, Stupid, Love. follows likeable schlub Cal Weaver (Steve Carell) as he sinks into an alcohol-fueled depression after his wife (Julianne Moore's Emily) spontaneously leaves him one day - with the movie subsequently detailing Cal's friendship with a slick player (Ryan Gosling's Jacob) and his inevitable transformation into a ladies man. It's an admittedly familiar premise that's employed to consistently above average effect by Ficarra and Requa, as the filmmakers, working from Dan Fogelman's script, have infused the proceedings with a fresh and consistently engrossing feel that's heightened by the uniformly charismatic performances. And as strong as Carell and Moore are here, there's little doubt that Gosling ultimately walks away with the title of MVP - as the actor delivers an almost unreasonably charismatic performance that is, without question, utterly hypnotic from start to finish. The affable atmosphere is perpetuated by the consistently engaging nature of Fogelman's screenplay, with the inclusion of unexpectedly sharp asides and genuinely hilarious chunks of dialogue elevating the film above its romcom brethren on an impressively frequent basis. At a running time of almost two hours, however, Crazy, Stupid, Love. unfortunately does overstay its welcome to a fairly demonstrable degree - with the film's final twenty minutes especially problematic and ensuring that the whole thing doesn't quite end as strongly as one might've hoped. Still, this is a minor complaint for what is otherwise a compelling piece of work and it's certainly clear that Ficarra and Requa, between this and I Love You Philip Morris, have carved out a niche for themselves as purveyors of first-class comedic fare.
Focus follows a veteran con man (Will Smith's Nicky) as he reluctantly agrees to take Margot Robbie's Jess under his wing, with the movie detailing the pair's various escapades as they grow closer and closer. Filmmakers Glenn Ficarra and John Requa have infused Focus with an almost excessively familiar vibe that grows more and more problematic as time progresses, with the movie hitting virtually all of the touchstones one has come to associate with the con-artist genre - including, of course, several sequences in which things are not initially as they appear. And although both Smith and Robbie are quite good in their respective roles - Smith is at his charismatic best here, to be sure - the actors are forced into a romance that couldn't possibly be less convincing. The absolute lack of chemistry between the actors proves completely and utterly disastrous, as much of the film's narrative hinges on the viewer's rooting interest in the pair's ongoing success. Smith and Robbie's less-than-convincing coupling only highlights the decidedly generic nature of Ficarra and Requa's screenplay, with the continual lack of standout sequences certainly ensuring that the viewer's patience is tested to an increasingly prominent degree. (It's ultimately clear that Focus boasts only one wholeheartedly engrossing interlude, as Nicky participates in a series of increasingly absurd bets at the Superbowl.) The end result is a disappointing endeavor from two otherwise above-average filmmakers, and it's finally impossible not to wonder if the film might've fared better had it not contained such a ludicrous romantic pairing.