Not Everyone Loves Phillip Morris
by Fairy Cake
The attitude to LGBT peoples in the State has, of late, become a bit of a joke for us Brits (particular LOLz at Itawamba Agricultural High School for pissing on Constance McMillen’s prom parade). But it feels like, this week, the said naysayers may have taken the proverbial biscuit.
Yesterday, while distracting myself from the 8-hour migraine that is my day job, I came across not one, not two, but three different trailers for upcoming homofest ’I Love You Phillip Morris’.
The film, starring Ewan ’Questionable Accent’ McGregor and Jim ‘I once fell out of a Rhino’s arse’ Carey, tells the story of Steven Russell, a straight-laced Christian suburbanite, who, after taking a nasty knock from an articulated lorry, decides to denounce all that is good and proper to become a raving homosexual conman.
So far, so mildly offensive. After spanking his fraudulent dollar on Italian boyfriend Rodrigo, Russell is sent down for insurance fraud and promptly falls in love with Ewan’s Morris, a soft-spoken all-eyelash inmate who melts under Steven’s roughish confidence. In order to impress his new beau, Russell gets back into his old ways, breaking his boyfriend out of the slammer, and sending the couple on a rollercoaster of romance, serious financial illegalities, and a great deal of matching Emporio Armani underwear.
When I originally heard about ILYPM, I did a little leap in my head. After all – it’s been 4 years since Hollywood came over a little queer with Brokeback Mountain, a film that featured more repression and denial than Cliff Richard’s entire musical career. Imagine the queer community’s collective joy to find that good ol’ Uncle Sam was funding a film about two men who were, shock horror, out and proud.
It was all going so well. Trust our glorious cousins in the North, then, to back out at the last minute. Despite a star-studded cast, and critically-acclaimed director, the film has failed to secure a distributor in the States, and skeptics have suggested the film will go straight to DVD, as it is simple “too gay” for mainstream audiences.
The collective decision of US distributors to shun ILYPM is not just a blow for director Glenn Ficara’s dream of owning his own private island, it’s great big bastard problem for gay cinema too. By turning away an otherwise incredibly mainstream film because of a queer storyline, Hollywood is fuelling the idea that American audiences are not ready to accept homosexuality as a common, welcome practice – and, more worryingly, that this intolerance is somehow completely fine.
The American public may be considerably more conservative in their views than us Europeans, but they’re certainly not the dribbling Neanderthals the US Film Industry seem to pin them as. Our old friend Brokeback Mountain grossed $83 million in North America after its release in 2006, gobbling up 4 Golden Globes in the process. Queer film festivals are thriving, and big names are climbing over each other to snap up the latest in trendy queer film roles (nod in Julianne Moore‘s direction for her turn in Chloe). The yanks are not so much “no homo”, as “Go, homo, go!” In a last ditch attempt to rally US support for ILYPM, Freestyle Releasings decided to re-cut the original trailer, removing all the “gay” scenes. The result of which can be viewed below:
There are two big fat problems with this promo:
1) The intention of a trailer is to give the viewer a concise, accurate summary of an upcoming feature, containing a rough overview of the storyline, characters and general aesthetic. ILYPM is essentially a big, gay love story. And what happens when you try and make a trailer for a big gay love story whilst avoiding showing any scenes that have anyone being gay in them? You confuse the shit out of your audience.
2) By making a bigot-friendly, censored –to-death trailer, Freestyle risk engaging the interest of the few dribbling Neanderthals left in America, who come to the pictures expecting a gaudy biopic of a misbehaving conman, and actually get nigh on two hours of bum sex and ‘drop-the-soap’ gags.
It’s easy to highlight what’s missing from the Freestyle re-cut by taking a look at this, the original international trailer. Which actually, y’know, tells us something about the film…
Sorry, folks. But if America’s going to do Phillip Morris, they gotta do him right. No cleverly-edited advert is going to save them. It’s a case of all or nothing.
Had distributors taken a second to look up from their cheque books, they would have realised that it is films like this that shape the attitudes of the public, and the tentative tip-toeing of censors only serves to legitimize and perpetuate prejudice. Once one of the big names decides to embrace queer cinema (I’m looking at you, New Line), the gate is opened for lots of other diverse, homo-related features to come scampering through. But alas, as hysterical Minnelli-buffer Joel Grey once sang, “Money makes ze vorld go round”. Of that we can be sure. It seems The Big Bad I Said Nos are going to need to see a little more dollar before they decide to let this little goat out of the closet.
But it’s not all bad juju. UK distributors are safe in the knowledge that Brit audiences love a bit of the queer, and ILYPM is showing in all major cinemas over here. It’s easy to forget when one lives in a place such as London, that our friends across the water are still facing censorship that to us seems tired and obsolete. That is why it is more important than ever for us support gay cinema; whether that be by snapping up ticket to go and see ILYPM (which, despite holding a preliminary place in our heart, could turn out to be gash), or buying a season ticket for this year’s LLGFF. If not for yourself, do it for our brothers and sisters in Yankland, who will have to wait a little longer for a glimpse of McGregor/Carrey tonsil tennis.
You can catch ‘I Love You Phillip Morris’ at your local cinema, or, for a more artsy treat, why not head down to the NFT and check out one of the many delights showing there as part of the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival? Trust us, this year’s a good ‘un.