With Jim Carrey in the lead role as Steven Russell, this comic overlay may have been inevitable, even irresistible. However, let's acknowledge that Hollywood still has difficulty presenting straight or gay men directly expressing sincere, heartfelt love, much less celebrating, even ecstatically proclaiming it, as Russell repeatedly does. Add to that his unabashed embrace of his gayness. Conventional films continue to mock or otherwise diminish both. And yet, in the midst of the farcical humor, I Love You Phillip Morris does find time for several truly touching moments, guided by Steven's voiceover narration. Further to its credit, the film does satirize several stereotypes and doesn't blanch at the sex involved.
Here are the essentials. With his self-congratulatory attitude, Steven cons his way into HMO financial management jobs, scams hundreds of thousands of dollars, and pulls off multiple impersonations that allow him to walk out of prison several times, all propelled by his devotion to Phillip Morris with whom it's love at first sight when they meet—in jail.
As Phillip, Ewan McGregor more than holds his own with Carrey because of McGregor's quiet, commanding charisma. Carrey demands attention and affection; McGregor invites and encourages it. Technically, co-directors and writers Glenn Ficarra and John Requa chose to use a lot of handheld shots to express Steven's on-the-move energy and shifting personas. Naturalistic lighting reinforces the realism, though contrast and color saturation increase as tension builds. Throughout the film, the different look of flashbacks adds texture and separates them from the contemporary period.
I Love You Phillip Morris is bright, cheery, and amusing, especially for Jim Carrey fans. At a Landmark Cinema.