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Wayback Wednesday: I Love You Phillip Morris (2009)

I will now be serving a life-sentence of re-watching this movie.

The last Jim Carrey movie I saw that I enjoyed was the hilarious and inspiring Yes Man (2008). By the way, check out my review for that movie, here. In 13 years, I haven’t seen a single Carrey movie that has managed to live up to the highs of his past movies. Don’t even get me started on the horrifically disappointing Dumb and Dumber To (2014). God, what a mistake that was. But for this week’s Wayback I checked out a relatively forgotten movie in Carrey’s filmography and I have to say, I ended up being surprisingly delighted! I Love You Phillip Morris (2009) had me on the edge of my seat from start to finish. If you don’t know about this movie, you’ve got some research to do!

Credit: / LD Entertainment / Roadside Attractions / EuropaCorp Distribution

Based on true events, I Love You Phillip Morris tells the story of Steven Jay Russell, a con-artist and imposter who escaped prison multiple times during the 1980s and 1990s. While in prison Steven falls in love with Phillip Morris, a fellow inmate. Over the years to come Steven escapes prison over and over again to be with Phillip, each time his fraudulent crimes growing more and more extreme, and his escapes more and more daring.

I knew absolutely nothing about this movie or its source material going into it. However, I remember when it first came out and as a 13-year-old I vividly recall it being the first time seeing a movie about gay characters that wasn’t a straight up romance. Which definitely intrigued me. Then without reason, I forgot about I Love You Phillip Morris for years. Which is so shocking coming from me of all people. This movie is right up my alley! It’s the true story of a con man, who happens to be gay, and stars Carrey and Ewan McGregor, two actors I adore. It’s even written and directed by John Requa and Glenn Ficarra, the duo who would go on to direct one of my favourite movies, Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011). Now that I’ve rectified such a glaring mistake and have seen I Love You Phillip Morris in all its glory, I can do nothing but sing its praises. The movie has all the attention-commanding intrigue of Catch Me If You Can (2002) mashed up with the hilarious dark comedy of The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), and then topped off with the endearing romance of Supernova (2020). Look, I’m not delusional. I realize how odd of a movie that sounds. But honestly, I Love You Phillip Morris is an off-beat and bizarrely quirky crime-comedy-romance that’s like no other. And it’s a winner through and through.

At times I Love You Phillip Morris is so unbelievably wild that you wouldn’t be blamed for thinking that the story was a work of fiction. I repeatedly had to tell myself that what I was watching was all based on true events, a concept that made the unbridled wildness of this movie all the more entertaining. I had so much fun learning about the crimes of Steven Jay Russell that it made me genuinely want to pick up the book the movie is based on just to learn the full scope of his extraordinary criminal career. And I almost never want to read the books AFTER I’ve already seen the movie.

The story moves along at a mile a minute, a refreshingly concise pace compared to other crime movies I’ve seen that clearly have trouble grasping the concept of editing. Whether it was the sweet romance, the true crime exploits, or just the all-around stellar writing and direction, I was thoroughly invested in the entirety of I Love You Phillip Morris. I couldn’t wait to see which way the story would twist and turn next and believe me, this is one twisted story. Twists you’ll never see coming! Trust me, you’ll never be bored watching this movie, I can promise you that much. Truthfully, in my opinion I Love You Phillip Morris checks a lot of the boxes that I would expect from an Oscar contender. Alas, I have a sneaky suspicion that the choice of main characters and the raunchy material kept I Love You Phillip Morris from being seriously considered by the Academy. If the movie had been the type of LGBT+ movie the Academy favours – a tragedy filled with abuse and death or an inspiring biopic filled with abuse and death – I’m sure I Love You Phillip Morris would have been nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay and even Best Picture. Seriously, this movie rocks and it’s a shame it wasn’t praised more simply because the film industry seems to have a problem with rewarding LGBT+ movies that recognize that there are more than one kind of story to tell.

Speaking of the Oscars, for his lead role as Steven Jay Russell, Carrey absolutely deserved a nomination for Best Actor. In one of the rare times that he’s playing a role that isn’t purely comedic, Carrey shines in a way that is unlike anything I’ve previously seen from the funnyman. His performance is of the utmost quality, and he gives every second he’s on screen his all. This is a a great role for Carrey because it not only challenges him to step outside his box a bit (which he does wonderfully) but it also allows him to display the full range of his talents. From physical comedy, to cartoonish and witty delivery, to earnestly moving dramatic monologues, I Love You Phillip Morris is some of Carrey’s best work and the fact that so few people know about this performance is a crime.

Starring opposite Carrey is McGregor as Phillip. Wow oh wow, is McGregor ever a talented actor. Besides his obvious charm and screen presence, something that he brings to every performance, McGregor’s greatest strength as an actor is his versatility. Unlike someone such as Matt Damn for example, who has made a career of playing the same kind of everyman character over and over, McGregor never seems to give the same performance twice. He always crafts a character vastly different from the last one he played and doesn’t ever rely on the same nuances. As Phillip, McGregor is easily just as entertaining as Carrey, serving as the perfect straight man (ha, ha) to Carrey’s comedic lead. The pair share a tangible chemistry and it really can’t be stated enough how much I bought into their relationship. Again, I positively adore Carrey and McGregor and strongly believe that fans of either actor need to immediately check out I Love You Phillip Morris.

I’m a big fan of when movies that have the potential to be burdened by clichés end up surprising audiences and doing something completely unique and unexpected. “Unique and unexpected” is exactly how I would describe I Love You Phillip Morris and I couldn’t be more thrilled that I’ve now been introduced to this awesome movie. There’s no con here. How much fun you’ll have is all true.

Have you seen I Love You Phillip Morris?

Let me know in the comments or on social media!

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