‘I Love You Phillip Morris’ is a Good Jim Carrey Movie
‘I Love You Phillip Morris’ is a love story, a comedy and a satire that plays like a live action animated film, so, of course, it stars Jim Carrey. He’s one of the few actors who fit readily into a film that’s often broad, sometimes moving and seemingly unbelievable, even though it’s based on a true story.
“I Love You Phillip Morris” is very much in the Carrey milieu; he’s the “I” in the title and he’s the engine of the plot. Although his filmography has some low points, I’d say this is a good Carrey movie.
Carrey plays the film’s narrator, Steven Russell, who begins telling his life story from what seems his deathbed. As a boy, he learns that he’s adopted, which compels him to lead a model life. He becomes a police officer, marries a good, but dim, devout Christian woman (Leslie Mann) and has children. Oh, yes, he tosses in, he’s also a closeted gay man.
One day, he decides to look for his birth mother; when he finds her, she rejects him. The rejection brings him to the edge emotionally, but a car accident brings an epiphany. He won’t pretend anymore. He will be not just openly gay but aggressively gay. Steven leaves his family (although still maintaining ties) and moves to South Beach and gets a boyfriend (Rodrigo Santoro).
He leaves his law-and-order side behind, too, instead supporting his new extravagant lifestyle through insurance and credit-card schemes that land him in jail. One day in the prison library he meets Phillip (Ewan McGregor) and falls madly in love. When Steven gets out of prison, he impersonates a lawyer and gets Phillip released. He didn’t start smoking cigarettes in jail.
The cons and the adventures continue (Texas law enforcement does not come off well in this film), and while much of what you see could not have happened exactly as portrayed, as I noted earlier, it is based on the true story written about in articles and a book by Houston-based journalist Steve McVicker. Yet, it’s that quality of implausibility, emphasized by the film’s vividly colored cinematography, that makes “Phillip Morris” so much fun, and also, at times, a bit unwieldy.
The love story at the center of the film is played, rightfully, conventionally, and sex scenes are upfront in terms of mechanics but are more suggestive than explicit. They are also more often played for laughs than romantic intent. Honestly, Carrey and McGregor don’t have much chemistry.
No matter: This is a star vehicle, and Carrey is charming and funny and seems to be having a lot of fun portraying a fool for love and a man who can’t stop conning anyone, even himself. In that way, “I Love You Phillip Morris” is both a typical love story and unlike one you’ve ever seen.