Written & Directed by: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
Starring: Jim Carrey, Ewan McGregor, Leslie Mann
The most extraordinary thing about I Love You Phillip Morris is the fact that it is based on true events. In fact, more of it is true than you would believe (like, McGregor’s last film The Men Who Stare at Goats). It is the story of Steven Russell (Carrey) who is introduced and unravelled in all his complexity in a superb first act. He is a loving family man, church pianist and all-round Truman Burbank kinda guy until after barely surviving a car wreck he decides to come clean about the fact that he is in fact gay and runs off to Florida to pursue a no holds-barred gay lifestyle. In order to maintain this lifestyle he becomes a con man and is eventually sent to prison where he meets and falls in love with beautiful, naive Phillip Morris (McGregor). However, their happiness is short-lived as Russell is released. The rest of the film is a series of escape attempts orchestrated by Russell to break out whichever one of them is in prison at the time.
From the lunatics who brought us Bad Santa, this shares the previous film's wicked, wicked sense of humour. At times filthy, at times downright nasty I found it consistently hilarious. Though this isn’t Jim Carrey’s best role, he plays the character in an interesting way, dark and creepy, but admirably human recalling his brilliant performance in The Cable Guy. I suppose a huge problem is the fact that we cannot possibly like this character. He is unreachably crazy, and destructive which makes it difficult to invest much in him. His one true love Phillip is a very underwritten character and is borderline offensive in his girlishness and naiveté. He is thoroughly loveable but McGregor’s portrayal is a tad immature and stereotypical, which lessens the film’s emotional punch. Having said that, the film does not condescend to its gay heroes, nor is it even an issue that they are of the same gender, which is great to see in a mainstream film.
This is a very entertaining film, not a great piece of cinema, not a classy meditation on homosexual life, but it is sweet, well shot and the story is beyond belief (I was so unconvinced that I researched it only to find it’s all true). I definitely recommend I Love You Phillip Morris for a few laughs and a truly amazing story, but don’t expect to be blown away.
- Charlene Lydon