Sunday, December 5, 2010

Hollywood Bites Reviews: "I Love You Phillip Morris"

Largely abandoned following a promising debut at Sundance in 2009--presumably because distributors were worried about standing behind a farcical romantic comedy centered on prison breaks and gay lovers--"I Love You Phillip Morris," the true story of super scammer Steven Russell (Jim Carrey) and his beloved Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor), finally arrives in theaters after a string of missed release dates.

Adapted from investigative journalist Steven McVicker's book, I Love You Phillip Morris: A True Story of Life, Love, and Prison Breaks by Steve McVicker, Carrey leads the charge as an ex-police officer-turned-produce salesman, happily married to a lovely God-fearin' woman (Leslie Mann, as funny and captivating as ever despite minimal screen time), and living on the down low as a gay man, until a near fatal car accident convinces him that life is too short to be squandered. He comes out of the closet, divorces his wife and starts a fabulous new life in South Beach with his boyfriend (Rodrigo Santoro), only to discover that “Being gay is expensive.” The only way to afford his new lifestyle is to turn to a life of crime and fraud, which eventually lands him in a Texas prison where he falls madly in love with a fellow prisoner, Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor in all his doe-eyed, dreamy glory), setting off a string of jail breaks and new crimes in the hopes of living happily ever after with his beloved cellmate.

Written and directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, the twisted team behind "Bad Santa," I Love You Phillip Morris achieves a rare blend of witty, zany comedy with an unbridled sense of romance minus any sentimentality. Carrey's Silly Putty physicality and bravado performance, one of his best in years, set just the right tone of wackiness as Russell recounts his misadventures from what appears to be his death bed. Narration is rarely a good thing in movies; it's usually what writers throw in when they're at a loss creatively and/or need to cram in as much exposition as possible. But Ficarra and Requa use Russell's narration to deliver some of the best jokes of the film.

Cheeky and irreverent, yet surprisingly emotionally charged, "I Love You Phillip Morris" is a genre defying romp that was worth the wait.

I Love You Phillip Morris is currently in theaters.

If you're living high on the hog, Steven Russell-style, here's a great way to treat yourself:

Grilled Wagyu Beef with Parmesan and Brie Polenta and Quick Creamed Spinach
Serves 8

1/3 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons fresh rosemary
Freshly ground pepper and salt to taste
2 pounds wagyu beef (flank steak can be substituted)

5 cups water
1/2 cup milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups instant polenta
1 cup parmesan
5 oz. brie cheese, rind removed
Salt to taste

Quick Creamed Spinach-
1 tablespoon butter
2 cloves garlic
2 bunches fresh spinach, thoroughly washed and chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
salt and black pepper to taste

Combine all marinade ingredients and toss steak to coat. Allow to marinate for 20-30 minutes while preheating the grill.

If using a gas grill, preheat the grill with high, direct heat. If using coals, allow coals to burn down to glowing white embers. The grill is hot enough when you hold your hand about an inch over it for only a about second. Lightly grease grill with olive oil to prevent sticking.

Grill 4-6 minutes per side, depending on your well-doneness preference.

Remove from the grill and place on a cutting board. Allow to rest on a cutting board for 10 minutes, tented in aluminum foil to maintain heat.

Meanwhile, bring water and milk to a boil in a large heavy saucepan, adding butter and allowing to melt at the last minute.

Gradually add cornmeal, whisking until smooth. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until thick and creamy, whisking constantly, about 8 minutes.

Stir in Brie and Parmesan cheese.

Season to taste with salt and set aside while preparing spinach. If polenta seizes up, add 1/2-3/4 cup milk and reheat, whisking until desired consistency is reached.

In a large pan over medium-high heat, melt butter and sauté garlic until it softens, about a minute. Don’t allow it to brown.

Add spinach and sauté until dry.

Add cream, Parmesan, nutmeg and cook until thick and creamy. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

If using Wagyu, divide steak into portions per person. If using Flank Steak, carve into thin slices, against the grain, and at a slight diagonal so that the slices are wide.

To serve, spoon a large mound of cheesy polenta onto the center of a plate, top with steak and creamed spinach.

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