I Love You Phillip Morris (review)

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Steven Russell is a small-town West Virginia cop with a pretty wife till a near-death car accident forces him to confront the truth: He’s gay, dammit, and there’s nothing to be done about it except begin to live the life he was born to lead. So he moves to Miami, gets a hot boyfriend, and discovers another difficult fact: “Being gay is really expensive.” So he turns to a life of con artistry to support himself and his lover in the manner to which they’ve become accustomed. Here’s the twist: In prison — for yes, the law inevitably catches up with Russell — he falls hard and fast and deep for his cellmate, the endearing Phillip Morris (and Morris for him)… and Russell will do anything to be with Morris forever and ever from then on, up to and including multiple (and hilarious) escapes from prison once they’re separated. Bad Santa writers Glenn Ficarra and John Requa graduate to writer-directors here, and give us a warmly human and hugely funny story that’s almost a sendup of both prison melodramas and hetero romantic comedies… yet is also a truly amorous and very satisfying tale about the extremes to which a man will go for love. Jim Carrey (A Christmas Carol) reminds us here, as Steven Russell, that he can be a genuinely passionate actor able to skillfully combine comedy with pathos when he is removed from the Hollywood machine, which strives to turn him into a cartoon; Ewan McGregor (The Ghost Writer) is lovely as Morris; and Rodrigo Santoro (Post Grad) as the ex-boyfriend and Leslie Mann (Funny People) as the ex-wife make what are usually vicious caricatures unexpectedly sweet and supportive surprises. It’s all taken from the book by journalist Steven McVicker [Amazon U.S.] [Amazon Canada] [Amazon U.K.], and based on a true story. “This really happened,” the film informs us as it opens. “It really did.” You might not believe it otherwise, because it so beautifully encapsulates the kind of true-love story that seems to exist mostly within the realms of fantasy.

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