I Love You Phillip Morris Review


Anyone who knows me knows my issues with Jim Carrey as a comedian. He’s not a bad actor—Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind showed us that. But his comedic style is way too spastic and over-the-top for my tastes. I Love You Phillip Morris features perhaps the first such performance from Carrey that I really enjoyed. He’s just terrific as the gay sociopath Steven Russell, and he single-handedly elevates this fun but problematic film.

Steven Russell’s (Carrey) whole life is a lie. He was adopted, and didn’t find out for years. He starts out his adult life as a cop, but he only becomes one in order to use his influence to track down his real mother. And when he finds out she doesn’t want anything to do with him, he decides to leave his wife (Leslie Mann) and finally come out as a gay man. In order to keep up with his expensive lifestyle, he becomes a con man, but he gets caught, and after two failed suicide attempts, he goes to prison.

There, Russell meets Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor), a gentle man who is taken with Russell immediately. They spark up a romance, and when they are both released (thanks to some craftiness from Russell), they move in together. But Russell’s attempts to go legit don’t take. He continues conning, in order to keep Phillip happy, and it seems like only a matter of time before he’s caught again.

The plot is a lot of fun and is definitely reminiscent of Catch Me if You Can—only this film is even more twisted. The cons are often ingenious and hilarious—especially when one considers that this film is based on a true story. As a caper comedy, the film is brilliant. But the dramatic and romantic elements are far less successful. On the whole, they don’t bring the film down too much, but we’re definitely left wanting more when the film veers off the comedic track.

The film’s most successful component, however, is Jim Carrey. Steven Russell is the kind of role he was born to play. His exaggerated movements actually serve this role well, and while I wouldn’t say he makes the character human (he’s one-note, though that one note is fun), I think he succeeds in investing us in his story. I wish the same could be said about Ewan McGregor. He’s also one-note, and that one note is boring. To be fair, the role is severely underwritten—Phillip feels more like a necessary plot device than a living, breathing character—but McGregor doesn’t do much to improve the part.

I Love You Phillip Morris faced a difficult road to theaters, and it’s not too hard to see why. While this type of story might seem audience friendly, this particular film is decidedly dark. Those who seek it out, however, will be rewarded with 90 minutes of fun, if unremarkable, cinema.

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