Back Seat Producers Season 07 Shows

BSP Episode 223: I Love You, Phillip Morris

Release date:                                      12/3/2010

Roadside Attractions

Based on Mark Millar’s “I Love You Phillip Morris: A True Story of Life, Love, and Prison Breaks

Directed & Screenplay by              Glenn Ficarra, John Requa

Produced by                                        Andrew Lazar, Far Shariat


Jim Carrey                                           Steven Russell

Ewan McGregor                                 Phillip Morris

Leslie Mann                                         Debbie


Initial comments by the hosts:

Sam really liked this movie.  He thought it was funny and an interesting character study and dubbed it “the two gay guys-funnier Shawshank Redemption.”  Jill did not like the movie at all and had to go back to it three times to finally get through it.  She did not connect with the characters at all and found them to be superficial stereotypes and didn’t see how the relationships made sense.  Darrell thought he wasn’t going to like it and was surprised to find that he really enjoyed it; he thought the story was compelling.  Tony said that the movie surprised him at every turn.  It was not the movie he was expecting it to be, and he was very happy with it.  He’s very hit-or-miss with Jim Carrey, and he really liked him in this performance.

Sam thought the narration worked very well in this movie and Jill thought it was necessary in order to explain some of the more absurd parts of the movie.  Tony liked that the narrator (Steven Russell) flat-out lied, because the character can’t tell the truth.  During Jimmy’s death scene, from AIDS, Steven appeared to be mourning Jimmy’s death but years later Steven faked his own death from AIDS.  So, was Steven really sad when Jimmy died or was he simply filing that bit of information away to possibly be used later?

Jill took issue with how Steven’s life took such drastic changes when #1, he found his mother and #2, he came out of the closet as a gay man and took on that stereotypical, over the top, extravagant lifestyle.  She appreciated, at least, that they also portrayed him as a liar and a jerk.  Sam thought it wasn’t that much of an unrealistic portrayal since the movie would have taken place in the late 1970s and into the late 1990s, as that wasn’t really a set stereotype at that time.  Darrell countered that Steven, who moved to Miami, would have lived during the time of that exact type of life, that stereotype.  Tony thought that this showed one of the flaws of the character.  Steven was attracted to men but he only knew how live as a gay man by fulfilling this stereotype, that this was the only thing he knew.

Throughout most of the film, Jim Carrey played the character in a reserved manner, as he clearly should have, but Jill found a few moments in the film when Carrey let his larger-than-life comedic side come forward, and all the hosts agreed that this was unnecessary.  Darrell brought up the scene where Steven is walking up to his office and finds a slew of FBI agents waiting for him.  In his escape, he took a slightly more physically comedic route, and that would have played much more realistically if it has been played in a more reserved manner.  Sam thought that the movie, in its narration, was framed through the lens of a comedy more than a drama.  He thought that the comedy was Steven trying to poke fun at himself in hindsight.  Tony disagreed with the major life-changing event of the car accident, which then brought Steven to announce that he was gay and this subsequently changed every single aspect of his life.  He found it to be too much of a leap to be believable.

Jill wondered if, without knowing that the movie was based on a true story, the viewers would buy the story?  Tony agreed that he wouldn’t have and Sam stated that he simply enjoyed the movie, true story or not.  Tony thought that if the movie could have earned some of its storytelling points, instead of just leaping at them, it could have gone on to be a good story.

One of the questionable story lines for the hosts is how could someone who spent almost his entire life mired in lies and cons be believable as being in love with Phillip Morris?  Could Steven Russell love anyone other than himself?  Tony said that it was real and believable for him during the early stages of their relationship when Steven and Phillip could only communicate through notes.  You begin to see something deeper develop between them.  On the other hand, the movie never got too deeply into any of Steven’s other relationships (Debbie or Jimmy) so there wasn’t a lot to compare it to.  These were some of the movie’s shortcuts that made the storyline a challenge to find plausible.

They liked Ewan McGregor’s character as the soft-spoken Phillip Morris; they found his naïve character pretty believable.  Even when Phillip knew that Steven was a con-man, his naiveté played well in that he never questioned some of the blatant contradictions in Steven’s character.

It would be interesting to compare the movie to the book to see if the movie took a more comedic turn.  All in all, with the exception of Jill, the hosts found it a fun movie to watch.

Your Producers for this episode were:

  • Tony
  • Darrell
  • Jill
  • Sam

This episode was recorded: 3/21/2012