Ewan McGregor is best known as Anakin Skywalker. Jim Carrey is best known as a comic savant, from his time in Dumb and Dumber and Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. Well in this film, they combine to make a sweet love story, set in and out the prison system of Texas.
Steven Russell is an average guy. He is married, has one kid and is a police officer in a small town. After a car accident, he is determined to live his life as he really is: gay. He eventually ends up in prison where he meets Philip Morris. The rest of the movie is spent watching their relationship develop, be destroyed and rebuilt again. Russell escapes from prison multiple times to be with his love.
First of all: if the depiction of a gay relationship, from sweet intimate moments to essentially full-on sex, disturbs you, this movie might not be right for you. Carrey goes all in this role, as a credit to him. The movie does not dance around the sexual aspect of their relationship – indeed it treats it exactly as it would have treated a heterosexual relationship. It does show some sexual moments, but the center of it is the same love and care that exists in all relationships.
What carries the movie is that relationship. It is sweet, deep and despite the schemes and crimes and escapes, rooted in a purely innocent desire of a person trying to make the one he loves happy. Carrey, in a departure from his normal fare, turns in an excellent performance of a man with various sides. My favorite Carrey film has always been the Truman Show for that exact reason: less physical comedy and goofy hijinks and more real acting. McGregor, in both character and performance, is outshone by Carrey. McGregor’s Philip Morris is a quiet man, who is devoted to his soul mate but gets swept up in Russell’s path.
At the end of the day, this story isn’t about gay rights or the penal system. It doesn’t tell a tragic story of AIDS in the gay community, or a modern-day Houdini. It’s about two people who try to make a relationship work. It’s a love story.