Based on a remarkable true story, I Love you Phillip Morris details the countless escapes of Steven Russell a fraudster who is still currently serving his 140-year sentence in Texas. Initially a cop with a young family and a wife who adores him, we are taken aback (to say the least) when ten minutes in there is a rather explicit (shall we say) revelation, that Steven (Jim Carrey) is actually gay. Russell admits that the life of a gay man is “expensive”, which sees him in jail for insurance scams. However this is fate as it is here, head to toe in a stunning bright yellow uniform that he meets the love of his life, Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor).
Whenever we think of Jim Carrey all we see is his rubbery, hyperreal face, whose slapstick distortions have made us laugh for years. However, although not Oscar- winning, we find ourselves falling in love with this fraudster and admire him for his sheer determination to escape, and the commitment he invests in to these crazy schemes. Perhaps his most impressive feat is when he feigns AIDS to get transferred to a care unit, fakes his own death, only to become Phillip’s attorney to get him out of jail, so that they finally can be reunited. This insanely dynamic, compulsive liar is contrasted perfectly by the sweet naivety which McGregor brings to his role as Phillip. Shy and completely besotted with Steven, Phillip’s ‘happily ever after’ is shattered as he becomes entangled within Steven’s web of lies.
With writer-directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, Carrey and McGregor are a winning duo in creating a comedic romance which exceeds the stereotypical boy meets girl, to tell us what happens when boy realises he’s in love with Jimmy (Rodrigo Santoro as Steve’s boyfriend before Phillip). Carrey’s anti-hero is, after all, a very clever man, who gets away with an incredible amount of stuff, some of us would be afraid to do, because of a genuine mental ability, which he unfortunately supplements with lies.
There is something funny and touching about this chaotic and abortive love affair, because we know that it is a doomed relationship and neither of the principals understand why. It is this confused and quite frankly messy quality of their relationship that announces that it is drawn from real life. Steven’s blags are arguably just a eccentrically magnified version of the fake-it-till-you-make-it routine that many entirely honest people find themselves needing to use. Basically it’s Catch me if you Can meets Brokeback Mountain without the horses.