I Like You Phillip Morris!

I Like You Phillip Morris!

Apr 24, 2011

Overlooked by theatre-goers, shop I Love You Phillip Morris recently came out on DVD and is quite the popular rental. This true-life “romantic-comedy” has Carrey playing a gay con-man. While in prison he falls in love with the young and naive, there Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor). Let me tell you, these two actors play gay really, really well.

The story starts with Stephen Russell (Carrey) as a church-going, fun-loving family man. That is until one night he’s in a car accident and has an epiphany. You see, Stephen is a closet-homosexual. His epiphany? Get out of the closet. So, he does. Stephen leaves his wife and daughter, moves to Florida, hooks up with a handsome young man and starts living la vida loca. Well, it’s not long before he realizes being gay is expensive. Here is where the common flaw in Stephen’s life really becomes problematic. Mr. Russell has a problem with lying. He hides the truth in almost everything he does. While in Florida he starts conning to pay for his extravagant lifestyle. We’re talking massive fraud. Insurance, identity, credit card, etc…Well, it’s not long before the law catches up with our queer hero and he ends up in prison. It is here where he meets Phillip Morris. He is instantly smitten and the two begin a courtship.

The rest of the movie takes us through their somewhat tumultuous journey. They get out of jail, move in together, Stephen continues his fraudulent antics, they end up back in jail, they get separated numerous times, Stephen escapes numerous times, etc…And in some ways it feels like two stories. In one story, we’re watching this emotionally dysfunctional relationship go through hell and back. In the other story we’re watching a series of hilarious, unbelievable cons performed with glee by Jim Carrey.

The con stuff is really entertaining. To know that it is based on a true story makes it even better. The directors do a great job at keeping us interested in the elaborate scams as well as the relationship between Russell and Morris. Carrey and McGregor put forward amazing performances. And the love stuff is actually somewhat compelling at times. But, I didn’t find myself deeply moved either. And, no, it isn’t because they’re gay! It’s because Stephen Russell is such a messed up, lying douche bag, that it’s hard to believe he is capable of real love. Near the end, a dramatic meeting with these two lovers puts an exclamation point on this issue. In reply to Russell’s speech about his singular, devoted love for Morris, Morris asks, “How do I know you’re not lying about that?”

“You don’t”, answers Russell with sober honesty.

And that’s just it. While Phillip Morris tries very hard to be a love story, it’s never fully engaging because of the main character’s constant deception. He wants to be trusted and loved, but he knows he can’t be. Yet it is that same deception that makes this movie so entertaining. It’s a unique story with quality performances and really solid directing by Ficarra and Requa. Unfortunately, while the characters are compelling, it is the nature of Stephen Russell that doesn’t allow the audience to invest emotionally in the rest of the story. His deception and intelligence make him a sympathetic character on the surface. But his shallow and compulsive behaviour keep us from being able to connect on a deeper, emotional level.

Phillip Morris is good. Not great. If you’re an ignorant homophobe, you won’t be able to watch this movie. If you appreciate well-made films and “too-crazy-to-be-true-but-are-true” stories, then I think you’ll find this to be a worthwhile watch. Did I “love” Phillip Morris? No. But I really liked it.

About the Author

Craig the Critic


  1. I find the description “romantic-comedy” so odd when it comes to this film. By the end, I had forgotten it was supposed to be funny at all – instead it was just pathetic and sad. (And totally worth seeing!)

    • Yes, hence the quotation marks around the phrase 🙂

  2. I loved so much at this film, mostly because of Carrey’s great performance as Stephen Russell. Carrey looks like he’s having a ball with this goofy, but smart character every way possible. Good Review!

    • I meant laughed. Sorry man! Lol

  3. Thanks Dan the Man! Ya, I thought Carrey was pretty awesome.

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