An ode to unreliable narrators.
I’ve always loved con artists. There’s a true appeal to the stylization of the simple art of lying and glamorizing its execution in film. I Love You, Phillip Morris is a snappy tale that refuses to deny that truth is, in fact, stranger than fiction. Based on a true story, we go deep into Steven Russell, a multi-faced and flawed con man embodied by Jim Carrey. Careful now, Carrey loves surprising his audiences with his stealthy variety in choice roles; this isn’t Liar Liar by a long-shot. Alongside is the love of his life, Phillip Morris, played by Ewan McGregor; whom he happens to meet in jail. Two brilliant performers progressively construct a dynamic together that brings this story home; it’s not just humor produced between the two of them, but some of the most vulnerable and sensitive performances seen from both Carrey and McGregor.
I Love You, Phillip Morris is a highly entertaining farce that plays with narrative style like matchsticks. It’s an endless streak of humor at work as we see Steven Russell constantly shift from one elaborate hoax to another faster than a chameleon on cocaine. This isn’t the super-hyper Jim Carrey mode, its fantastic pacing and direction at work that never drops the ball in the film. It’s refreshing to see the film take some of the weight for once and let Carrey act rather than him being the over-strained powerhouse of laughs.
McGregor’s role here grows to be rather under-rated, even within the film he doesn’t get the credit he deserves. While that fits the story, since I Love You, Phillip Morris is a rampant biography on Steven Russell, Phillip Morris ends up coming off as one of the most interesting motifs seen in a comedy. This is pitch-black humor, however, and McGregor fits his character and its given under-mined nature perfectly; creating this rather effeminate appeal to Morris that drives up the charm of their relationship and gives the film its necessary head check.
Like many con artists searching for themselves, their hearts are in the right place and their persistence is unprecedented; that’s what I Love You, Phillip Morris is. An absolute treat loaded with funnier concepts than most works of fiction.
This film was my dad.