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Film / I Love You Phillip Morris

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What? He's just hugging his attorney. Don't all prisoners hug their attorneys?

"Love sure is a funny thing. Makes you happy. Makes you sad. Makes you do all sorts of things you never thought you'd do before. In fact, love's the reason I'm laying here dying."
Steven Russell

I Love You Phillip Morris is a 2010 dramedy starring Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor. It follows the true story of Steven Jay Russell, a con man and serial prison fugitive, and the love of his life, a sweet-natured unlikely inmate named Phillip Morris (no connection to the infamous tobacco company).

When our story begins, Steven (Carrey) is a respected Virginia Beach deputy sheriff with a beautiful wife, Debbie, and an adorable daughter, Steffie. He goes to church every Sunday, does his job well and sexes up his wife on a regular basis. The problem is, he is also secretly gay. When a freak car accident causes him to reevaluate his priorities, Steven comes out of the closet and starts life anew in Florida with his new boyfriend, Jimmy.

However, his new extravagant lifestyle requires a little extra funding, and he becomes a con man to continue living "high on the gay hog". He is soon discovered, and goes to prison for insurance fraud, where he falls head-over-heels for Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor), a shy young blond from Arkansas. So begins a long relationship marked by multiple prison escapes, scams, hardships and magic markers.

I Love you Phillip Morris provides examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: Steven's comments about how 'God is a mean kid with a magnifying glass and I'm an ant,' is almost word for word Jim Carrey's speech in Bruce Almighty.
  • Batman Gambit: Steven runs several of these to con people in extraordinary ways. Such as managing to convince medical staff he was dying from AIDS. Steven admits that the only reason he got away with it is because it never occurred to anybody to check if Steven actually had AIDS. He was that convincing. Absurdly enough, all of these happened in real life.
  • Camp Gay: Steven seemed to enthusiastically try to become this. Though he quickly found the lifestyle to be a tad too expensive for him to live on his salary. Cue the crime spree.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Steven has a unique string of words whilst trying to play golf and Clevon has one when told by the guards to turn off the music (that Phillip asked for).
  • Comedic Sociopathy: Steven robs, cons and lies to essentially everyone in his life. With the exception of his lies to Phillip, it's all played for laughs.
  • Death by Despair: Steven. Later revealed to be subverted when it turns out it was faked.
  • Did Not Get The Guy: An odd variation at least technically Steven does get Phillip, but they aren't allowed to be together due to Steven getting an extremely long prison sentence.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: It is implied that the reason for the unprecedented severity of Steven's sentence is because his escape was an embarrassment to the state of Texas and Governor Bush, and also because the prosecuting D.A. was his former boss's sister-in-law. Really, that's the only way to explain getting a life sentence with a 23-hour a day lockdown for fraud and prison escapes. A LOT of fraud and MANY prison escapes, but still...
  • Dissonant Serenity: Naturally occurs for a love story starting in a prison. Especially notable when Clevon gives his word to play a romantic song to the end; Clavon ends up arguing with a guard who wants the music off, and Phillip and Steven continue dancing even while Clevon ends up getting tased for resisting.
  • Downer Ending: Steven gets a life sentence and never sees Philip again.
  • Foreshadowing: After Steven states he suffered "a lot of personal losses" after Jimmy is seen threatening to leave him, it's implied that they broke up because of it. It later turns out their relationship's end had nothing to do with their separation; Jimmy died of AIDS, yet it rings true that Steven lost him and never got to see him again.
  • Gossip Evolution: Done through Steven's lawyer joke — despite starting as an Evil Lawyer Joke, the punchline comes back as less funny, and then plain racist.
  • Hope Spot: Steven isn't dead from AIDS, and is about to free Phillip by posing as his lawyer again. Cue one of his old colleagues recognizing him as he's attending jury duty, resulting in Steve's life sentence.
    • Despite Steven being permanently incarcerated in real life, the movie has a brief pre-credits scene of Steven escaping again.
  • How We Got Here: The film starts with Steven lying in a hospital bed. The rest of the film, narrated by Steven, traces how he eventually ended up in that bed.
  • I Gave My Word: If you pay Clevon to play a song, he will play it. His word is his muthafuckin' bond, bitch. He even gets into a fight with several guards to keep said music playing.
  • MacGyvering: Steven can escape from prison with just about anything: magic markers, women's stretch pants, pain medication, pay phone handsets, you name it.
  • Mood Whiplash: Steven's last prison break. It's all fun and games until it turns out Steven is dying of AIDS, and Phillip finds out, and forgives all his terrible behavior during an incredibly heart-wrenching, affecting phone call... and THEN it turns out that Steven actually faked AIDS as part of an elaborate plan to get them both out of prison, and Phillip was never meant to find out. Oops.
  • Motif: Clouds, especially penis-shaped ones.
  • Naughty by Night: Steven has two sex scenes: one is clumsy, uninteresting marital sex that's well lit; the other is passionate, revealing sex with another man by moonlight.
  • Never Heard That One Before: Steven's "lawyer allowing three questions for $50" joke goes and comes back around so much that by the time it comes around with racist connotations, he stops in his tracks, mouth agape, instead of fake-laughing along.
  • "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer: The movie starts with one, and yes, all of this really did happen. Steven Russell and Phillip Morris are real people and are both still alive.
  • Oh, Crap!: A subtle one, as Steven cons his way into a job as a Chief Financial Officer. His theme music begins as he stares out his new executive office window, only for it to stop when he spins around and sees two massive stacks of paper on his desk.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Ewan McGregor's actual Scottish accent comes through the Arkansas drawl fairly often. Jim Carrey's accent slips pretty often, too.
  • Politically Correct History: Granted it's irrelevant to the plot and still somewhat present, but people generally seem tolerant of gay people for 90's southern America.
  • Prison Escape Artist: Steven Jay Russell.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Steven's prison-break record runs on this. And it's not even as crazy as some of Steven Jay Russell's actual escapes.
  • Real-Person Cameo: The lawyer stood next to Steven when he's sentenced at the end of the movie is the real Phillip Morris.
  • Reveal Shot: This is how Steven is shown as gay to the film viewers. He is shown having sex with someone who is just off-screen, which is assumed to be his wife, until his sexual partner raises his head into frame.
  • Sex Starts, Story Stops: The sudden jump cut to Steven having sex with a man.
  • Shout-Out: To Bruce Almighty: "Maybe God's just a kid with a magnifying glass, and I'm just an ant."
  • Title Drop: Given by Steven as he is put on his bus to a higher-security facility.
  • Train-Station Goodbye: More like "chase your boyfriend's prison bus while shouting 'I love you's at each other" goodbye, but you know.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Steven, the narrator, is always hiding information and lying about information in the voice-over.
  • What Are You in For?
    • This exchange:
    Phillip: I rented a car. Kept it too long.
    Steven: Grand theft?
    Phillip: Theft of services.
    Steven: Insurance fraud.
    Phillip: No, just theft of services.
    Steven: No, me, insurance fraud.
    • Also at the end of the film when Steven is about to be prosecuted the two guys sitting next to him discuss theirs and Steven tries to escape.
  • White-Collar Crime: How Steven got sent back to jail the second time. By running company money through non-company bank accounts, he generated huge amounts of interest from shifting cash that was pending transaction.