The comedy film about real-life con man Steven Jay Russell (played by Jim Carey) and his prison crush on fellow inmate Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor) opens on Christmas Day at Malco's Studio on the Square. Here's what Flyer film editor Chris Herrington had to say about the show:
Arriving just shy of two years since debuting at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, I Love You Phillip Morris is a broad, daring farce that marks the directing debut of Bad Santa screenwriting team Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, who bring that film’s principled disregard for good taste to this amazing true story of unrepentant con man Steven Jay Russell.
Jim Carrey, in his strongest performance in years, plays Steven, who is a married police officer and church organist in Virginia when we first meet him. But he harbors a secret, and a near-death experience spurs him to announce joyfully: “I’m gonna be a fag!” as his bloodied body is carted into an ambulance after a car wreck.
Recuperated, Steven parts ways with his perplexed but sympathetic wife (Leslie Mann) and takes his talents, so to speak, to South Beach, where he shacks up with a fabulous new boyfriend (Rodrigo Santoro) and makes a troubling discovery: “Being gay is expensive.”
This realization spurs the film’s con-man plot, as Steven dabbles in credit card and insurance fraud, experiences that lead to multiple prison stints — and multiple escapes. One period of incarceration introduces Steven to his soul mate, the titular thief played, with needed understatement, by Ewan McGregor.
Carrey, back in gonzo mode, doesn’t get under the surface of his character, but surfaces are mostly enough. Laughs are plenty as when Steven and Phillip, in love, ask Cleavon (Michael Mandel) — the very large, very masculine inmate in the next cell over, who owns a portable stereo — to play their tape all the way through. And as they slow dance, Cleavon refuses to turn the tape off despite being teased by prison guards. “My word is my bond,” he shouts, offscreen.
The film’s attitude about gay sex is defiantly open, and the plot twists make for quite a ride — including a comically tasteless final turn that conned not only the characters onscreen but also this viewer. — Chris Herrington