Steven Jay Russell is on his deathbed, recalling the events of his life that led him to this point. He spent his early adult years in Virginia Beach as a police officer. He plays the organ at church, has unenthusiastic sex with his wife, Debbie, and spends his off-hours searching for his biological mother, who had placed him for adoption as a child. Steven locates his biological mother, but she rejects him.
He then quits the police force and moves to Texas and works for Sysco, the family business.
After a car crash on the way to a homosexual tryst, Steven leaves his family and life behind, though he keeps in touch with his wife and young daughter, and explores the world as his true self – a gay man. He moves to Miami, where he finds a boyfriend, Jimmy, and they adopt a luxurious lifestyle. To keep themselves in the style to which they have become accustomed, Steven becomes a con man. Steven is pursued by the police, and, after jumping off a parking garage, is sent to prison, where he falls in love with inmate Phillip Morris.
Steven cannot bear to be separated from Phillip. After being released, he helps get Phillip freed from prison by posing as a lawyer, then attains wealth by fraudulently acquiring a position as Chief Financial Officer of a large medical management company called USAMM.
Steven eventually is caught embezzling. While in the police car he reminisces about Jimmy in Florida dying of AIDS. He asks the police for Phillip's insulin and injects himself. He goes back to prison, Phillip is also sent to prison as an accomplice and angrily tells Steven he never wants to see him again. Months later, Phillip learns from another inmate that Steven is dying of AIDS. Heartbroken, Phillip calls Steven while he is in the infirmary and confesses that, while he is still upset with Steven for lying to him, he still loves him. Phillip is later told that Steven has died.
Sometime later, Phillip is taken to meet with his lawyer and finds Steven waiting for him. Steven describes how he faked dying of AIDS, to be allowed to see Phillip again, and promises never to lie to him again. He runs one last con to break Phillip out of prison, only to be caught when he runs into an old co-worker.
The end of the movie explains that the real-life Phillip Morris was released from prison in 2006; but Steven was given a life sentence and is in 23-hour lockup, only having one free hour a day to shower and exercise, which the film implies to be because an official involved in the sentencing had a nephew who was conned by Morris.
The last scene shows Steven laughing joyfully while running across the prison yard, guards in pursuit, in another attempt to be with Phillip.Jim Carrey as Steven Jay Russell
Ewan McGregor as Phillip Morris
Leslie Mann as Debbie
Rodrigo Santoro as Jimmy
Antoni Corone as Lindholm
Brennan Brown as Larry Birkheim
Michael Showers as Gary
Marc Macaulay as Houston Cop
Annie Golden as Eudora Mixon
Michael Mandel as Cleavon
Phillip Morris (in an uncredited cameo) as a lawyer during Steven's sentencing
After original difficulty finding a U.S. distributor, likely due to its explicit gay sexual content, the film was re-edited. In May 2009, it was announced by Variety that Consolidated Pictures Group had acquired the rights for distribution.
Portions of the film were filmed at the Louisiana State Penitentiary (also known as Angola) in West Feliciana Parish, Louisiana. A Christian blogger stated that warden Burl Cain did not permit one sex scene between two male inmates to be filmed at the prison. The real Phillip Morris even appears in a cameo as Steven’s lawyer in one scene.
The film was released in Europe, Taiwan, and Japan between February and April 2010. Although a limited run in the United States was initially scheduled for April 30, 2010, it was later reported that the film's release had been indefinitely postponed by its distributors, Consolidated Pictures Group but on April 12, 2010, Variety announced the distributor had had a change of heart and that I Love You Phillip Morris would be shown in limited theaters starting July 30 before expanding nationwide on August 6.
On June 3, 2010, the film was delayed yet again due to legal battles. The film was finally released on December 3, 2010, after Roadside Attractions and Liddell Entertainment acquired the rights to distribute in the United States.
I Love You Phillip Morris has a worldwide gross of $20,722,843 as of August 31, 2011.
The review aggregate Rotten Tomatoes reports that 72% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 152 reviews and an average score of 6.6/10. The critical consensus is: "This fact-based romantic comedy has its flaws, but they're mostly overcome by its consistently sweet, funny tone and one of the best performances of Jim Carrey's career."
Steve Persall from the Tampa Bay Times wrote, "Think Catch Me If You Can mashed up with Brokeback Mountain if Mel Brooks directed and you’ll get the idea." John Anderson of Variety remarked, "Less of a comedy than a hilarious tragedy, I Love You Phillip Morris stars Jim Carrey in his most complicated comedic role since The Cable Guy." Empire wrote, "One of the funniest films of the year, this is a wonderful mix of old-school Carrey outrageousness with a genuinely touching – and very modern – love story."
Damon Wise of The Times gave the film four stars out of five, stating, "I Love You Phillip Morris is an extraordinary film that serves as a reminder of just how good Carrey can be when he's not tied into a generic Hollywood crowd-pleaser. His comic timing remains as exquisite as ever." Xan Brooks of The Guardian also gave the film a positive review, describing the movie as "fast, funny and rather daring. A whisk of caffeine with a center that's sweet."
The film was released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on April 5, 2011.
I Love You Phillip Morris: Original Soundtrack was composed by Nick Urata.