I Love You Philip Morris – Film Review

Directors: John Requa and Glenn Ficarra

Writers:  John Requa and Glenn Ficarra

Starring: Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor

Rating: ★★★½

I Love You Philip Morris is the true story of conman Steven Russell, a larger-than-life character who while in prison fell in love with another inmate and successfully escaped from prison several times in order to be with him. Jim Carrey stars as Russell, giving a great performance that mixes the comic style he’s well known for with a much more sinister side. Ewan McGregor also stars as Philip Morris, the person that Russell fell in love with.

Steven Russell is shown as a liar through and through and has next to no redeeming qualities. At the same time his life is shown as a tragedy, with the opening of the film showing how being adopted (or how he sees it, being abandoned by his birth mother) set him on a bad path. He becomes a police officer just to track down his birth mother, and when he does she shuts the door on him and claims to know nothing about him. The incident pretty much breaks Russell, although it isn’t until he survives a near-fatal car crash that he really starts down the path to being a criminal.

Up until that point he had been trying to keep secret that he is gay. He was married and had a child, but the car crash was the wake up call that he needs to live to the fullest, so he moves to Florida and starts a lifestyle that he can’t afford to keep up. Inevitably he turns to crime, which at first is presented quite comically as he fakes accidents to sue companies for money. Eventually he’s inevitably caught and after a failed suicide attempt ends up in prison where he meets Philip Morris and his life changes forever.

Even with the dark themes and subject matter, like child abandonment and suicide, the film keeps an incredibly light tone. It’s never too long until there’s a joke or something to keep everything upbeat. Russell’s crimes are mostly nonviolent (apart from paying someone to beat someone else up in prison), so he’s not shown as an all-out villain, even though his actions do lead to Morris ending up in prison for something he didn’t do. He says that everything he did was for love, but it’s easy to see that greed plays the biggest part. He just can’t help himself.

Russell takes every opportunity he can find to get what he wants, and doesn’t stop at any point. He always takes things to far to the point that it’s honestly incredible. There’s one point late in the film, and without going into spoilers, it’s one of the best sequences. It has you completely fooled as the audience, and it’s expertly crafted. When the reveal happens, it’s shocking but also by that point kind of expected.

Most of the film is focused on the relationship between Russell and Morris, so the multiple escapes from prison are glossed over in a montage. It makes the later half of the film feel kind of rushed, because you want to see more about how he managed to escape so many times, why the police weren’t constantly watching him. It’s all a mad rush for Russell to keep trying to get back to Morris.

Similarly to Catch Me if You Can, it’s amazing that this is actually a true story. You’d really think that someone wouldn’t be able to get away with so much. Jim Carrey is fantastic, and makes the film. 

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About ashleymanningwriter

Young Adult Fiction writer. Horror and fantasy blended together.
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