Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Everything about this oddball black comedy based on the life of conman, Steven Jay Russell, seems implausible at first. All you have to do though is Google his name and you’ll find out that as outlandish as this film is, the real guy was strangely even more larger than life.
Jim Carrey plays the famed trickster Steven Jay Russell in what is undoubtedly his best comedic role in a very long time. He reportedly even worked for basic union wages just to get this film made.
Steven at first seems like your average suburban family man. He’s an upstanding police officer, a doting father and a responsible husband to his wife Debbie (Leslie Mann). This all changes when Steven is involved in a horrible car wreck, and experiences a near-death epiphany.
Tired of living a lie, Steven comes out of the closet not only as a homosexual, butas the most flamboyant gay man since Elton John. His lavish lifestyle (vacations in the Keys, chichi watering holes) and extravagant presents (matching gold and platinum luxury watches) for new boyfriend (Rodrigo Santoro) is indubitably well beyond his means.
Steven becomes a conman to make ends meet, and while he’s hilariously skilful at it, it isn’t long before his cunning exploits lands him in jail. While in the state penitentiary, he meets and falls madly in love with Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor).
Unsurprisingly, his habit of using grifts to shower his lovers with gifts never abates even in jail. This continues even after they are both released, with Steven swindling (he’s a compulsive lawyer. Really, he pretends to be an attorney many times) his way back to his opulent ways.
His clever cons (such as fraudulently becoming the CFO of a major corporation) eventually land him back in the big house. Unable to live without his true love, a forlorn Steven escapes prison on four separate occasions just to see his beloved Phillip again. Yes it’s all true; Steven Jay Russell really did escape from prison multiple times in real life, masquerading as everything from a doctor to a judge to casually stroll out of high-security lockups.
The irony of Steven’s initial epiphany is that it forces him to live within an increasingly even bigger web of deceit. Steven is a pathological liar and no matter how hard he tries, he can never go straight – so to speak. However underneath all those lies, his love for Phillip is beyond reproach and therein lays the audience’s sympathy with Steven.
Jim Carrey finds just the right tone to his trademark manic mannerisms and slapstick zaniness to retain the pathos necessary for such a dark character. Ewan McGregor pulls off Phillip’s childish idealism and yearning romanticism perfectly as well. They both marvellously carry this tale of two incredibly flawed people trying to seek refuge in love, with warm-hearted tenderness and light-hearted camp.
About Hidzir Junaini
Hidzir Junaini, is 23-years-old and a wealthy playboy billionaire by day and a caped crusader by night. Only one of those is true. He’s actually a freelance writer, blogger, full-time film buff and some-time socially awkward nerd. He also writes about music, restaurants and nightlife for MetroWize Asia.
Hidzir was the winner of the inaugural inSing Movie Lover contest that garnered over 1,000 participants. The Movie Lover contest is a search for a candidate who possesses outstanding passion for movies and a talent for writing engaging movie reviews.