I Love You Phillip Morris
It’s hard to put a label on I LOVE YOU PHILLIP MORRIS. I guess it’s best to describe it as a dramatic, romantic comedy set in prison. I have to admit that it’s one of the most original love stories I’ve ever seen and knowing that this was a true story lent proof to the old adage that you can’t make this stuff up. A fun story, coupled with two great performances from Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor made for a fun and unique film.
Jim Carrey is Steven Russell, a seemingly normal American husband and father that’s living a lie on virtually every account. After a frightening car accident, he makes a vow to himself that he’s going to be honest about who he his, which means telling the world that he’s gay. After he packs up and moves to Florida, he gets caught up in the gay scene and feels pressured to keep up financially, which means a lot of credit card fraud and bad checks. It doesn’t take long for him to get caught and then he’s off to prison.
This is where the story takes an unusual turn because I don’t think we’ve ever seen a prison love story before, but that’s exactly what I LOVE YOU PHILLIP MORRIS is. While in prison, Steven meets Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor) and they fall in love. Continuing with his con-man ways, Steven takes his knowledge of the law and poses as a lawyer in order to free Phillip. Their new found freedom forces Steven into another series of lies and that lands him the CFO job at a major company. Of course, he winds up stealing funds and lands right back into prison. At this point, the film turns into a prison heist type movie with Steven concocting a variety of plans to escape the big house.
I LOVE YOU PHILLIP MORRIS is another film (see CASINO JACK for an example) that features a character that has a distorted reality. Steven’s refusal to see what was really going on in the world led to his demise and if he had only taken a step back and taken a breath or two, his entire situation would have changed. But it’s hard to find too many things wrong with I LOVE YOU PHILLIP MORRIS, other than the difficulty the audience had caring for either Steven or Phillip. I loved the journey they were on, but at the end of the day I didn’t really care what happened to either one of them. I don’t think this is a weakness on the filmmakers, I think this is just a problem with the story; these weren’t the most likeable people and that’s why most of the film is set in a prison. But even though I didn’t care about them personally, I very much cared about what was going to happen next. It seemed each con and each turn was more unbelievable than the previous and I found myself getting anxious to see how Steven was going to get out of his situation.
I’m a little sympathetic to the position this film put Summit Entertainment in. The film’s release was delayed several times and usually that means the film isn’t very good and the studio doesn’t know what to do with it. In this case, it’s clear the studio doesn’t know what to do with it, but it’s not because it isn’t a good film, it’s because they don’t know who to market the film to. It doesn’t fit in any of the Hollywood molds and no matter how good it is, I just don’t see general audiences lining up to go see it. It’s a shame because Carrey and McGregor give great performances and the filmmakers take us on a very unique ride that we haven’t seen before. People who go into this film with an open mind are going to be in for a treat.