Live Action (Short Subject) Nominees

I Love You Phillip Morris

Offbeat is the best word I can think of to describe I Love You Phillip Morris.  Essentially it’s a gay prison love story based on the true life tale of a Texas con man named Steven Russell.  Jim Carrey plays Russell, and it’s hard to tell if we’re supposed to be taking him seriously or not. He can be a really good dramatic actor but his performance here is at times over the top – good for the screwball comedies he’s in, not necessarily good in this movie.

At the beginning of the story, Russell is a closeted gay man who’s also a married, church-going, Christian police officer. After a life-altering event, he stops living the lie and fully embraces his homosexuality. But he soon finds out that the gay lifestyle he wants to live is an expensive lifestyle, so he also fully embraces insurance fraud. That’s how he ends up in prison, and that is where he meets and falls in love with Phillip Morris, a sweet and naïve fellow prisoner, played by Ewan McGregor.  That’s when things really take off because Russell will stop at nothing to be with his lover. He plots and schemes to do everything from posing as his lawyer to get Morris early release to escaping multiple times himself after he is thrown back in jail.

It’s the outrageous plot twists and turns that make the story hard to believe, even though it’s all apparently true. It is also funny in spots and sometimes surprisingly honest and even sweet in its depiction of the romance between Russell and Morris. Their relationship is the most believable thing in the movie, although the fact that Russell is such an accomplished con artist makes you think that at first he must have an ulterior motive for hitting on Morris when they meet in the prison library. In fact, it turns out to be just about the only thing Russell does that isn’t a scam.

The movie’s wild swings between broad comedy and romantic drama do it no favors – it can’t decide what it wants to be and it can’t convincingly be both. In the end, I was left a bit baffled and not really caring about Steven Russell or his love affair with Phillip Morris.

2 Comments

  1. Mainstream Chick, December 5, 2010:

    I agree with Adventurous Chick on this one – especially where Jim Carrey’s performance is concerned. I’m hit or miss with the guy – mostly miss, though I did like his dramatic turns in “The Truman Show” and even “The Majestic.” “I Love You Phillip Morris”(no relation to the tobacco giant) felt a bit like an indie, oddball version of “Catch Me If You Can”. I stumbled upon a brief article about the “real” Steven Russell and Phillip Morris just before watching the movie, so I was all ready to question the ending, before it took a final twist (No spoilers here). The movie is a testament to what a good con artist can pull off – before the law catches up to him- and the lengths that some people will go to in the name of love. Overall though, the movie falls a bit flat and is not likely to generate any real mainstream buzz or box office dollars. And putting ‘Phillip Morris’ in the title just confuses people!

  2. Arty Chick, January 31, 2011:

    We chicks all agree about this one. Jim Carrey is just too over the top for this role. There is zero chemistry between him and Ewan, though I buy Ewan in his role. It felt like they couldn’t decide what the tone of it was and changed it scene by scene to try out a bunch of different feels. I give it a big SKIP IT!

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