I Love You Phillip Morris
I Love You Phillip Morris tells the unlikely but true story of Steven Jay Russell (Jim Carrey), prolific conman, accomplished escape artist, adopted former cop and flamboyant homosexual. Spending his whole life living one lie after another he eventually stumbles onto true love while in prison, where he meets his soul mate Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor) who he will do anything (and I mean anything) to stay together with.
We meet Russell on his death bed as he begins to recount the assiduous story of how he got there. From a young age he decides he wants to live his life right so we find him in the perfect middle American family unit. He combines his loving wife & adorable daughter with a life devoted to upholding the law and praising the lord. All this however masks the first lie we are introduced to in his life, he is in fact gay. He lives this life in secret until the night he is nearly killed in a car accident which prompts him to re-evaluate that he must be true to himself and live his life to the fullest. From here on out we are in for a non stop thrill ride of adventure and love.
“Being gay is expensive” we are informed by Russell as we watch a lavish lifestyle unfold in front of us. The first half hour of this movie lets Carrey flex his comic muscles with flamboyancy and style as he warms up his con man capers. Thriving to live the high life he finds ever new ways to ‘earn’ money for his boyfriend and himself which invariably lead him to be arrested. It is in this incarceration that his life is changed as he meets the one Phillip Morris.
Morris is an almost impossibly naive and adorable man. Sweet and bashful he is played by McGregor in a sugar soft almost cartoon gay fashion. The character develops along with the plot until we are left with someone a little more believable, but as much as I like Ewan McGregor at times I found his character a little too flowery to muster. Carrey plays it similarly in the early stages but there was always a little menace to him that left the character a more believable air. Obviously the Morris character is not meant to be menacing in any way but I just felt I wanted a little more to him.
Their love story progresses through shifting tonal sections of humour, capers and romantic drama. We see a blissful romance beginning to strain through standard methods as Russell spends less and less time with his beau due to his ‘work’ commitments. His almost addictive need to make money to lavish his love again leads to his arrest and the break up of the couple. Realising the depth of his love we are brought to the morbid finale as Russell goes all out to win Morris back.
I enjoyed I Love You Phillip Morris comedically, it has some of Carrey’s best work in a while and the first time directors play the fun side of things very well and mix in the romance nicely in many scenes. One in particular has Russell & Morris dancing in their cell while next door a tirade of swearing erupts from their neighbour as he begins to receive a beat down from the guards for refusing to turn off the music. This hilarious mix of romance and vulgarity brings together the best things about this movie and it’s when they’re are melted together that it works best. Having decently juggled this for most of the film it takes a very sudden and sharp turn to the dramatically serious, before equally curtly snapping back in tone. This proves a little jarring and if handled better could have left the film a tad more palatable.
It’s an extraordinary story weighted down by the fact it’s actually true and the characters are both fun and affecting at the same time. While I think some things could have been handled with a little more subtlety both from an acting and directing point of view, I think the balance is close enough for most to find the film both funny and moving. Some of the situations Russell both finds himself in and sets up are hilarious and sharp but Carrey’s bright but bombastic performance occasionally tips the scale into characature. Some people say they will do anything for love, and in Steven Russell’s case he most certainly does and while he loves Phillip Morris, I just really liked him.