I LOVE YOU PHILLIP MORRIS is daring, delightful and disturbing.
The film is daring because of a single sex scene that kept the film in limbo and away from a studio willing to distribute it until late in 2010. The scene is shocking, but it is an important storytelling transition. Jim Carrey stars as the real life conman, Steven Russell, who from an early age learned the art of lying because he had to hide his homosexuality. Leslie Mann plays Carrey’s wife and Ewan McGregor is Phillip Morris who Carrey’s character eventually falls in love with and begins the most deplorable con of his life.
The story begins at the end, then jumps to the beginning and works its way back through Steven Russell’s life. From the very beginning the movie reminds the audience it is based on actual events. It makes sense why Hollywood would want to adapt Steven Russell’s life into a screen play. Steven himself is his first victim. He is a gay man trapped in a life he conned himself into thinking he wanted. One life changing event later, he jumps right into his new life conning everyone along the way. He lied his entire life and he could not stop even when he is sent to prison. Not even the love of a good man, Phillip Morris can end his deceit.
The film delights with its mix of comedy, mystery and a splash of drama. At times you cannot believe what you are watching in some form actually happened. Highly entertaining and there are many parts where you might think not even the best writers in Hollywood could of dreamed up the elaborate details of each con.
Carrey plays the conman very convincingly. Like most of Carrey’s larger than life characters, his portrayal of Steven Russell is no different. Sometimes it seems as though the character he created is in the wrong genre. The subject matter is very serious, but you forget because of the character’s antics and Carrey’s acting screams comedy. You do get glimpses of his incredible acting range, which reminds you of his acting in films like ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND and THE TRUMAN SHOW.
During the film you feel like you are in on each one of his lies, only to discover you are just another victim. By the end of the film, the audience learns they are not in on the con that is Steven Russell’s life.