"Enough romance, let's fuck!"
After gestating over two years on the sidelines due to distribution trouble, I LOVE YOU PHILLIP MORRIS was finally shown the light of day (or more fittingly, the darkness of a theatre), and the wait although long, is well worth it.
MORRIS is the true story of Steven Jay Russell--an adopted man who became a police officer, married a devout Catholic, and had a daughter. Now he's serving his remaining days in jail. For a long time. 144 years to be exact. Russell never murdered anyone; he wasn't charged with assault. What he did do was lie, cheat and steal his way to the tune of millions. Russell was a con man, and a good one at that.
Early on, Russell endures a devastating car crash, where he has an epiphany; he will finally live his life the way he's always felt: gay. He finds a boyfriend (Rodrigo Santoro), buys flamboyant clothing, drives expensive cars. Hell, he sends his ex-wife and daughter stacks of money for Christmas. In his words, being gay is really expensive. This causes him to turn to a life of impropriety to finance his new way of living. Purposefully slipping on oil in the supermarket and throwing himself down an escalator for the insurance claim, credit card fraud; all for the love of a designer shirt.
Jim Carrey is Steven Russell. He is also light years away from his Ace Ventura days; where he needed to talk from his ass to get a reaction. He's achieved an adept dramatic touch over the years, without losing his comedic timing. THE TRUMAN SHOW (1998), THE MAJESTIC (2001) and most impressively ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND (2004) all showcase a transformation that has eluded others of his familiar upbringing. After watching MORRIS, you'll agree that no one else would suffice for the role. Russell is extremely manic, but strangely lovable (a Carrey definition if there ever was one). He eventually gets caught and is sent to his first stint in prison. Very soon, Russell carves out a pretty nice niche behind bars. It appears he has the run of the joint; he walks where he pleases, and makes friends with everyone. The vibe of the lockup is more drab country club than a place where hard time is had. It is at a fluke encounter in the library where Russell meets Phillip Morris.
Ewan McGregor (Morris) has the most difficult and perhaps most impressive role in the film. I love how he can wield a lightsaber and kick some serious ass as Obi-Wan Kenobi, then show up as an introverted homosexual with dyed hair and the proclivity to cry at the drop of a hat. That is just outstanding. The middle act becomes somewhat of a cat and mouse game. Russell commits a crime, then gets caught, only to escape and begin the cycle anew. The film becomes a series of trials. For Phillip's sake, can Steven exist on the straight and narrow? Can there be happiness in their future? Will he find shoes to match those Gucci pants?
I don't know what I'm impressed with more: Russell's escapes or the idiocy of the prison system for allowing them to happen. After the first one, one would think his picture would be plastered on the walls. More often than not though, Russell simply saunters through the halls and walks through the exit; the only thing that differs are his ever changing outfits. Still, you have to hand it to a guy who has the ingenuity to fabricate some doctor's scrubs, using only some old clothes, food dye and a toilet. I've read that Russell's I.Q. is 163; one wonders what that type of intellect could be used for when not preoccupied with evading the law.
Steven loves Phillip, but doesn't know what love truly means. To him, buying flowers or a nice home is a suitable substitute for intimacy. It's evident that their feelings are substantial; it truly is love at first sight, and the sparks are exceedingly real--a credit to Carrey and McGregor. Russell answers the question of how far he would go to be with the one that matters most. He impersonates a lawyer, embezzles hundreds of thousands of dollars. The final con I will leave you to witness yourself. But rest assured, it is unfathomable and frankly revolting. And it's all true. You just can't write this stuff.