Steven Jay Russell had a loving wife, a beautiful daughter, a nice home, respect from his neighbors and from his fellow policemen. And he was in the closet. Actually, he was gay, but never confessed it to his family, but once he did, the closet doors swung wide open.
I Love You Phillip Morris is the remarkable, true story of Steven Jay Russell, who conned, lied, committed fraud and deceived people in order to live an extravagant lifestyle with his gay lovers. After announcing to his wife and the rest of his family that he was gay, he leaves them and takes himself to Miami, where he meets and settles down with a sexy Latin lover (the good looking and oh-so-suave Rodrigo Santoro). They live the high life, spending lavishly on clothes, cars, and a Miami-style home. How do they fund this lifestyle? Russell commits insurance fraud and cons people right and left. Eventually the authorities catch up with him, and he is sent to prison.
While in prison, he meets Phillip Morris (played brilliantly by Ewan McGregor). Russell immediately falls in love with Morris, though Morris plays hard to get. But eventually Morris falls for Russell's charming wit and personality, and they cannot bear to be separated. Even when Russell gets released, Russell does anything to be back in the arms of Morris, including impersonating his lawyer. And once Morris is out of prison, he and Russell set up house together. And just when you think that Russell should be very satisfied living on the 'outside' with Morris, again he turns to a life of fraud. This time he uses his prowess, smarts and good looks (and fake CV) to be hired as CFO of a Fortune 500 company. He skims money from the company to pay for yet another extravagant lifestyle, this time including matching sports cars and a beautiful house with a pool. Of course, he is eventually caught, and both men are sent back to prison.
If you think that at this point Russell's conning will stop, you are wrong. A few more cons and lies and even a fake death take place, and it is hard to believe this movie is a true story. If you don't believe it (and I still find it hard to believe that one man did all this), then read the book - I Love You Phillip Morris: A True Story of Life, Love, and Prison Breaks by Steve McVicker.
Jim Carrey is a natural for the role of Russell. Carrey has been known to over-act in many of his previous films, but this role requires him to do so, and he does it naturally. His performance of a gay man may be over the top, but it is funny and it is perfect. Ewan McGregor is charming in the titular role of Phillip Morris. With his blond highlights, Southern accent, cheeky smile, and oodles of charm, how can anyone not fall in love with Morris, gay or straight? Kudos to Ewan McGregor for taking on this part and practically stealing the movie from Carrey.
I Love You Phillip Morris goes from being very funny to being very dramatic, but it is a very entertaining and funny film. And if you don't mind watching a film which shows two men kissing (yes, Carrey and McGregor actually kiss!), then this movie is for you. So relax in your seat and enjoy. I still find it hard to believe that this film is a true story, and so will you!