I LOVE YOU PHILLIP MORRIS (Roadside Attractions)
STARS > Jim Carrey, Ewan McGregor, Leslie Mann, Rodrigo Santoro
DIRECTOR > John Requa and Glenn Ficarra
RATING > 3.5/5
OPENS > DEC 3
If we told you that this movie is a beautiful love story between two gay dudes who met in prison, would you take it seriously? What if we told you it was written and directed by the guys who wrote Bad Santa, and that the gay dudes are played by Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor? Okay… what about now?
As unlikely as it seems, I Love You Phillip Morris defies expectations at every turn. First off, it’s based on a true story about a guy named Phillip Morris whoisn’t the Philip Morris—single “L”—who made lung cancer into the popular disease it is today. Secondly, it’s a genuinely funny Jim Carrey flick in which the former Ace Ventura pulls no obnoxious faces and performs hardly any of his trademark physical comedy. Thirdly, the story tugs at the heartstrings in ways (read: AIDS) that would spell commercial suicide for any film trying to elicit laughs. And yet it all works, every last bit of it, right down to the terminal diseases.
Carrey plays real-life con-man and escape artist Steven Russell, a once-closeted policeman who survives a severe car wreck and decides to quit the force, divorce his wife (Mann) and move to Florida to live openly with his boyfriend (Santoro) in the burgeoning Miami gay scene of the 1980s. When his tastes begin to surpass his income, Russell turns to credit card fraud to fund his lavish spending habits. Inevitably, he gets caught and winds up behind bars, where he meets Phillip Morris (McGregor), a timid young gay man for whom prison offers its own unique horrors. Love blooms in the prison library and eventually continues in a shared cell. When Russell gets out, he poses as a lawyer to get Morris released early. He then spends the rest of the film in and out of prison for various forms of con-artistry, always finding new and ingenious ways to escape so he can be reunited with Morris.
The elaborate cons and brilliant prison breaks would be unbelievable—especially Russell’s final escape attempt, which is truly stunning—if they didn’t all really happen, but the fact that they did happen makes them all the more unbelievable. Meanwhile, Carrey and McGregor absolutely nail their roles as the overconfident alpha top and the demure twink bottom, respectively, acting out a sweet, funny and ultimately rocky relationship that would ring just as true were it between a straight couple. Despite themselves, write/directors John Requa and Glenn Ficarra offer a kinder, gentler and less screwball version of the ribald comedy they served up in Terry Zwigoff’s Bad Santa, but still manage to leave their telltale fingerprints all over I Love You Phillip Morris. It’s not a movie you’d expect from just about anyone involved, really, but it’s a winner through and through.