I Love You, Phillip Morris

*Dedicated to the people who live in the closet. You are loved*

It can be difficult to find queer representation in films, especially if you’re looking for it to be done well. It feels like our sexuality itself has been branded with a 12 rating or, in cases of extra flamboyancy, a 15 rating. Representation is on the increase, but if you want to watch something that is 100% unapologetically gay then I Love You, Phillip Morris has you covered.

We follow America’s gayest con-man Steven Russell as he finds any way possible to be with the love of his life Phillip Morris, who is in prison. Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor are wonderful as Russell and Morris respectively, giving us a passionate romance. There has been an ongoing debate as to whether straight actors should be allowed to portray gay characters. Some people feel it’s disrespectful to deprive gay actors of gay roles, and it would certainly be wonderful to have the LGBT community portraying itself. The subject of trans people portraying trans characters has sparked its own separate discussion, as it should, so lets just focus on the LGB. At the end of the day, it is an actors job to portray the character they have been given regardless of sexuality. If a gay actor is perfect for the role but the role goes to a straight actor who isn’t as good, then of course I expect an outcry. If an actor is known to be anti-LGBT and gets cast in a gay role then there should be an outcry. There is more of this in Hollywood than there should be, but watching Carrey and McGregor, it’s hard to argue that straight actors should never be given gay roles; they do a beautiful job of portraying a personal and intense relationship.

The most impressive thing about I Love You, Phillip Morris is that it’s based on a true story. Usually I would discuss how accurate or not the film is to the original incident, but I can’t wrap my head around how much of this film is true. It’s absolutely nuts. Steven is so desperate to be with Phillip that he is willing to get beaten up, leave a prison in hotpants and fake his own death from AIDS. Even more remarkable is that both of these men are still alive today. With docudramas there is usually a breathing period between the event and the film adaptation. Apollo 13 waited 25 year, Frost/Nixon waited 31 years and Schindler’s List waited 48 years. This film waited just 10. At the time of this films release, Steven Russell had just been moved to a maximum security prison where he is currently serving the 22nd year of his 144 year sentence. Meanwhile the real Phillip Morris makes an uncredited cameo as Steven’s lawyer in the final courtroom scene of the film.

If you want to find out how a man ends up being sentenced to 144 years in prison. If you want some decent gay representation. If you want to laugh, or if you just want to see Ewan McGregor as an adorable twink, this one’s for you.

Until Next Time…

Signed: Your friendly neighbourhood queer

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