Romy Shiller

I Love You Phillip Morris: Or, What I Did For Love

In Film, review on July 21, 2011 at 10:37 am


For it was not into my ear you whispered, but into my heart. It was not my lips you kissed, but my soul.

Judy Garland

Directors: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
Writers: John Requa, Glenn Ficarra
Stars: Jim Carrey, Ewan McGregor and Leslie Mann

There are issues around sexuality that are majorly resisted in our culture. One biased area is homosexuality and many attempts at hiding that one is gay leads to marriage. Sad but very usual. As a matter of fact, this very issue was on the popular television show Glee quite recently. A homophobic bully is really gay and is called out by another character who says that the gay bully will probably get married and have kids. Popular Culture is full of these kinds of examples.


Plot: Steven Russell is happily married to Debbie, and a member of the local police force when a car accident provokes a dramatic reassessment of his life. Steven becomes open about his homosexuality and decides to live life to the fullest – even if it means breaking the law. Steven’s new, extravagant lifestyle involves cons and fraud and, eventually, a stay in the State Penitentiary where he meets sensitive, soft-spoken Phillip Morris. His devotion to freeing Phillip from jail and building the perfect life together prompts Steven to attempt and often succeed at one impossible con after another. (



I Love You Phillip Morris is based on a real story and book: I Love You Phillip Morris: A True Story of Life, Love, and Prison Breaks by Steve McVicker. In this film Steven Russell (Jim Carrey) is married but falls in love with a man. This film had a limited release because I believe, it was too frank. (After original difficulty finding a U.S. distributor, likely due to its explicit gay sexual content, the film was re-edited. ) said, “I Love You Phillip Morris ran into problem after problem due its controversial subject matter and rather explicit way of showing it – almost every movie review makes mention of the surprisingly explicit sex scenes. Despite generating a lot of buzz, the film initially struggled to pick up a distribution deal before landing at Consolidated Pictures Group. After delaying the release date several times and even re-editing the more graphic scenes, the company ultimately shelved Phillip Morris indefinitely. The film was eventually released in several European markets and has “ made approximately $17 million overseas in limited release.” (


It’s on DVD now…There were hardly any sex scenes in the version I saw. They were probably edited out. I used to watch the television series Queer As Folk ( and it was way more explicit than this film.


There is a strong undertow here – the ideology around family and marriage is so ingrained in us. Look, family and marriage is a fine choice but it does not apply to everyone and unfortunately there are punitive social ramifications for opting out of a so-called norm.


As a straight, single woman, I am not immune from the ideology of marriage. In an article I wrote I say, “I was doing a Masters Degree and a PhD. I studied singing at The Royal Conservatory of Music. I had a band. There were relationships and jobs. I acted on film, a TV series and theatre, wrote articles, studied French and took seminars on photography and voice-work. Sorry if marriage was not a priority. I feel like it does not matter what I did – marriage would have been a measure of success.” ( hope to get married some day but if I don’t, c’est la vie.


After his marriage breaks up Steve moves to Florida, has a boyfriend and leads a very extravagant lifestyle which leads him to conning and ultimately jail. In jail he meets and falls in love with Philip. Steve is transferred to another prison and upon his release, pretends he is a lawyer to free Philip. Steve’s conning continues in an effort to provide excess for Philip. Philip abhors lies and kind-of leaves Steve. I won’t give away the ending. I really hope you see this.


This film is far from gritty. It is like a crayon box and when you go to a colouring book you draw outside the lines. It is quirky, funny and over the top but grounded by sentimentality.


Maybe the aesthetic had to be cartoony because the subject-matter is so serious. I think that a balance was evoked. This made it possible to reflect and enjoy the film without feeling like there was a sway in what I believe, is a positive direction. Our main character’s life is full of lies but he is true to himself – in this area he has integrity. What an interesting contrast. Steve’s identity alters but there is no identity theft here.


I can see why the film disturbed religious people. Steve starts out as a church-going family man. He prays with his wife before bed. He has sex with her. They have a daughter. There are references to Jesus throughout the film.


It is the very wonderful Jim Carrey’s story. He is absolutely excellent here. Ewan McGregor completely transforms. He is so brilliant that I would not have known it was him. Talk about versatile!


McGregor said, “I like it because it’s a gay film, which is to say it’s a film about two men in love… I also got to French kiss Jim Carrey a lot, and I quite like that too.” ( Ha!



Peter Howell of the Toronto Star says, “This is the most interesting role Carrey has had in a long while.” ( I would add Ewan McGregor to that sentiment. This film is absolutely unique and even if you are ambivalent about the theme, it’s worth seeing.


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