I Love You Phillip Morris
Directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa
Europa Corp. and Mad Chance
WHEN the opening credits conclude in the biopic I Love You Phillip Morris with the bold announcement “This Really Happened,” one can’t help but speculate that the creators of this recently released movie knew that what was about to unfold onscreen would challenge credibility. What does happen in this based-on-a-true-story tale is that Steven Jay Russell, one of the most elusive con men and escape artists ever known, takes a convoluted journey from average married father to a life of criminality, along the way falling in love with a guy named Phil-lip Morris.
The movie opens with Steven, played by Jim Carrey, taking a stroll down memory lane to revisit the events, starting with childhood, that led him to his current state of incarceration. It is through this device that the movie goes out of its way to establish a measure of audience sympathy for Steven. This is necessary because, had the story just jumped immediately into Steven’s life of antics and lies, it is doubtful that the audience would end up rooting for him, which it does. Steven’s artful dodging of the law makes his crimes appear innocuous even when they’re not. Cheering for a criminal hasn’t been this fun since Catch Me if You Can.