I Love You Phillip Morris, Directed by John Requa and Glenn Ficarra
Roadside Attractions, December 3, 2010 (US)
Screenplay: John Requa and Glenn Ficarra, based on the novel, “I Love You Phillip Morris: A True Story of Life, Love, and Prison Breaks” by Steven McVicker
Starring: Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor
It’s a pretty good rule of thumb to never trust a con man. And by never, I mean ever. With that in mind, perhaps it is best that you take what I am about to say with a grain of salt for I have been known to tell my fair share of fibs, but here goes: I Love You, Phillip Morris is one hell of a film.
Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor): Don’t bullshit me.
I’m not yanking your chain. It is a fascinating biopic, belonging to that genre firmly rooted in the truth is stranger than fiction department. The details of Steven Russell’s life are certainly wild enough to leave you somewhat skeptical about the truth behind what you have just witnessed. You cannot help but wonder whether you—like so many in Steven’s own life—have been downright duped. I am reminded of how nice it is to live in the age of the Internet with sites like Wikipedia or Ask.com readily available to find answers because as soon as the final credits rolled on this one, I was doing research in real time.
Steven Russell (Jim Carrey): I know you think that we were nothing but a lie, but underneath all those lies, there was always something that was real.
The more I thought about this story, the more fascinated I became. How—or for that matter, where—in the world could someone possibly get away with the stunts this guy manages to pull off?
Steven: Fucking Texas.
For me, one viewing proved entirely insufficient and so I promptly watched it again a few days later. I pondered what it was that made the story so hard for me to actually believe. I came to the conclusion that it is Jim Carrey’s over-the-top-and-somewhat-goofy portrayal of Steven that is ultimately most responsible for the wonderful tone of absurdity that hovers over the film and cements the notion that this story just has to be fiction.
Steven: I’m gonna be a fag. A big fag. You hear me? I’m gonna be a fag! Faggot! That’s what they’re gonna call me!
I’m glad that’s settled. I was beginning to wonder just who the hell this guy really was.
Debbie (Leslie Mann): Uhm, I don’t think he knows himself exactly. I think he’s searching for something.
Who the hell is this character? What made him this way? Just what was it that made him tick and dream of doing the things he did? Even the title of film leaves me second guessing. Was it really all out of love for Phillip or was Phillip just a victim of circumstance?
Phillip: Why’d I have to meet you today?
At the core of the film a fascinating love story exists. At least I think it does. If only one thing is certain regarding the truth about Steven, it is that I don’t think you could ever trust a single thing he says.
Steven: Now all that’s left is the man that loves you. And if you could see that, believe it, I promise I’ll never be anything else ever again.
Phillip: How do I know you’re not bullshitting me again?
Steven: You don’t.
Whatever the truth is, I can certainly see how Phillip found himself in love with this man. I can only imagine that to be anywhere in Steven’s path, you fall easy prey.
Steven: Sometimes it’s nice to know that someone still cares about me.
Because of this film and the book that it is based upon (and because of a story that simply defies all logic), I am confident that Steven will never again be left to wonder whether anybody cares about him. In fact, despite all that he has done, I am willing to bet that there are plenty of others like me who are rooting for him to mastermind his greatest escape yet. I would certainly never bet against him. And by never, I mean ever.