For a con man genre film, there are a lot of other elements packed in with I Love You Phillip Morris. It is essentially a comedy, but there is enough stop the flow drama between the two main characters that it is not a true comedy or satire. It is also a biopic about Steven Russell because this is based on a true story, but there is so much farce and laughable voiceover so the audience cannot take it too seriously. In short, it is difficult to define exactly what this film is.
Jim Carrey is Steven Russell who begins the movie a family man, a cop, and an all around nice guy. After a serious accident, Steven reveals his true self to be a flaming homosexual who was just repressing himself all along. He receives the ‘life is too short’ jolt and jets off to become his true self. His true self reveals itself to be a con man to fund his newly expensive lifestyle. He needs a substantial income increase to keep his new boyfriend supplied with gifts and maintain the outward appearance that he is a very successful South Beach homosexual. His multiple frauds catch up with Steven and he winds up in prison where he meets the titled Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor). They naturally become cell mates and fall in love.
The rest of the film is spent following Steven’s unfailing willpower to keep both himself and Phillip out of prison at the same time, create new financial schemes to keep them very comfortable, and make sure Phillip does not realize the real sources of illicit income. The best part of the film in fact is when it all crumbles down again and Steven hilariously and continuously discovers various methods to break himself out of jail. This is one smart guy. The film in its entirety though is jumpy with how it can at one moment be a farcical satire and then jump to a relationship drama.
Some in the audience may feel a bit uneasy about how often the very recognizable Carrey and McGregor kiss and cuddle, but they are good enough to make it appear they truly find each other attractive. Even though Steven is a fraudster, you find yourself rooting for him just so he can continue to protect and care for innocent and naive Phillip Morris. It’s not Carrey’s or McGregor’s best work, but it’s done well enough for you to take the time to watch them work together.