Directors: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
Cast: Jim Carrey, Ewan McGregor, Leslie Mann
Watch I Love You Phillip Morris online in the UK: iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play
You either love Jim Carrey or you don’t. His gurning, outrageous over-acting and manic voicebox either split your sides or leave you feeling queasy. But the good news? If you liked him as a straight pet detective, you’ll love him as a gay con man.
Stephen Russell (Carrey) is a good man. A married man. A happy man. But he’s also a pathological liar. And likes to sleep with men. So, when he gets injured in a side-on car crash, he makes a major life decision: he tells his wife he’s gay.
Dumping her and shacking up with a sexy guy down in Florida, Stephen’s life couldn’t be better. He buys flashy watches, expensive suits, tiny dogs – mostly with other people’s money. But as the credit card fraud starts to build up, he soon finds himself chucked behind bars. And there, in the law library, he meets the love of his life: Phillip Morris (McGregor).
The lies don’t stop there. He’s only been out of jail for 10 minutes when he breaks back in as a lawyer, getting Phillip released as soon as possible. Then, determined to go straight for his gay lover, he cons his way into a high-up financial firm, siphoning off money from savings accounts, while doodling little penises on bank statements. How else is he going to keep his perfect life with the blonde, cute, softly spoken Phillip?
Full of pratfalls and physical comedy, Stephen’s role is a perfect fit for Carrey: switching from sad, sick and hospitalised to bouncy, mad and camp, he runs amok in a part that makes the most of his comic energy. The initially naive McGregor, all blue eyes and exaggerated hand movements, is a great partner for Carrey – one hilariously memorable scene frames their lingering kisses against off-screen abuse between a mouthy prisoner and an angry prison guard.
The only weakness Phillip Morris has is the screenplay from directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa. Veering wildly between sentimental drama, crime caper, and wacky comedy, I Love You Phillip Morris has a completely bizarre tone. But this winds up matching its inconsistent lead character, whose self-deceptive outlook sucks in himself as well as all those around him. In a manner similar to Soderbergh’s The Informant!, the intriguing thing about this romantic comedy about a gay con man’s love life is just how enigmatic its protagonist is.
Pulling off the switch between tragedy and laughs, Stephen Russell is a charming, seductive and screwed up male – all things convincingly taken from Steve McVicker’s real-life newspaper reports. “Is the gay thing and the stealing something that goes hand-in-hand?” asks his ex-wife Debbie (Mann). Sure, he falls over a lot and spends a lot of time working the old rubber face, but this is one of the most interesting parts of Jim Carrey’s career. The fact that it’s one of the funniest is a bonus. With its charismatic performances and deluded main character, I Love You Phillip Morris is a weird and unique rom-con-com. Wonderfully entertaining.