NOTE: This spoiler was submitted by Nash and was written after a screening in the summer. The final release may be slightly different.
The film opens with Steven Russell (Jim Carrey) lying in a hospital bed, dying. It then flashes back to his childhood when he finds out that he was adopted. It then cuts to a church where Steven, now older, is leading a choir in song. We see the life he has made for himself as a cop and a loving husband and father with a young little daughter. He is also very religious, praying with his wife Debbie (Leslie Mann) at bed. As he has awkward sex with his wife, he asks her if it’s wrong to use his role as a police officer to find his real mother. Eventually, he finds a woman named Barbara Bascombe and reveals that he is her son. She shuts the door on him claiming she doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He sees inside that he was actually her middle child and she had kept the other two. He throws a tantrum on her stoop and steals her Welcome mat. That is the day he quits being a police officer and moves with his family.
He now works in produce. After a scene of a welcome to the neighborhood party, it cuts to Steven having intense sex with another man. He has been gay his whole life. He lies to Debbie and tells her that he sees clients but is actually having sex with men. On his way home from one of these encounters, he is injured in a horrible car crash. As he’s loaded into the ambulance, he decides he doesn’t want to lie and hide anymore and declares to live his life openly gay from now on.
He moves to Florida with his new boyfriend, Jimmy Kemple (Rodrigo Santoro). He lives his life flamboyantly and finds living his life this way is incredibly expensive. He becomes a con man delving into credit fraud and faking accidents for money. At Christmas, Steven sends Debbie huge wads of cash. At his office and at his home, he sees police officers ready to arrest him. In order to avoid jail, he runs and tries to swallow loads of pills with alcohol in order to commit suicide. He fails and wakes up in a hospital bed next to Jimmy. Steven attempts to escape from the hospital. He tries to jump into a dumpster but accidentally hits the pavement. Steven is sent to prison.
We then see Steven showing his new cellmate around. He takes him to the library where Steven spends most of his time reading as much as he can about the Law. He pretty much tells him that he if he wants to get through prison okay, he’s going to have to suck a lot of dick. Steven meets Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor) in the library helping him get a book from the top shelf. They talk about their families and why they’re both in prison. Phillip wishes they hadn’t met today because he is being transferred across the yard and he doesn’t go out to the yard.
In his new cell, Phillip receives a note from Steven from a random inmate. He has also sent over some chocolates. They continue to communicate this way, passing notes through a network of other prisoners to each other, getting to know each other and falling in love. One day, there is no note from Steven which distresses Phillip until he finds out that Steven has been transferred to be his new cellmate. They immediately start having sex.
As they lay with each other in the night, they hear a man screaming in the other cell. This screamer is then beaten up the next day. Phillip finds out that Steven paid someone to have him beaten up which seems to upset Phillip. He confronts him and tells him that it was the most romantic thing anyone has ever done for him. Phillip pays the neighboring inmate to sing a song so that he and Steven can dance. The next day Phillip is taken out of the cell by the guards. He is being transferred to another prison. Phillip runs out to the yard just in time to see Steven being boarded onto a bus, both of them shouting declarations of love to each other.
Three months later, Steven is finally released from prison. He immediately goes to Phillip’s prison to visit Steven and tells him that he will try to find a way to get him released early. Steven now works at a butcher shop. After he has filed all the appropriate motions, Phillip is finally released from prison as well. Steven reluctantly agrees to represent a friend of Phillip’s in court for a lawsuit, even though he has no law degree. Through manipulations, lies, and some luck, he wins the case.
Steven shows Phillip a new, much larger place that he has bought. Phillip wonders if they can afford it but Steven says not to worry about it. They then go on vacation to Key West. Phillip decides that he is done with scams. Steven goes to a job interview with fake references and fake jobs on his resume and gets the job as a chief financial officer for a big financial company. He gets a big office with two big stacks of papers on his desk which Phillip doesn’t seem to know what to do with. In a big meeting, he impresses his fellow co-workers and bosses after a little bit of trepidation. He does such a good job that he gets invited to play golf with his boss. No one at the office knows that he is gay.
As Phillip is making a romantic dinner for them, Steven comes out in a tuxedo and says he has to go to a work function. At the function, he tells people that he is engaged to a working woman. Steven becomes increasingly bored at work and begins robbing the company blind. Through some clever investment manipulations, he has been able to make millions without the company ever knowing about it. He buys a mansion and increasingly absurd purchases including two sports cars. One of his co-workers, becoming suspicious of Steven’s wealth, starts going over the books.
Phillip is also becoming suspicious and asks Steven directly if there’s something going on he should know about. Steven denies everything. Steven finds out that his co-worker is on to his scam and immediately begins taking out all his money. He calls Debbie, letting her know he is going to be on the lam again. His boss calls and asks him to come in. Steven tells him he won’t and they both know why. Steven arrives home to a furious Phillip who now knows that he lied to him. Steven starts packing to go on the lam but Phillip leaves him. Before Steven can escape, he is arrested in front of his house.
We then flashback to Steven’s old boyfriend Jimmy dying of AIDS. Steven tells him that he is the love of his life but Jimmy says that Steven hasn’t met the love of his life yet but he will. Jimmy makes him promise to treat his next boyfriend right. Back in the present, Steven tells one of the officers to get him his insulin needles from the house, which are actually Phillips. Steven uses all of the insulin on himself as they transport him to prison. Steven regains consciousness in a hospital bed. When trying to escape, he finds that his leg is shackled to the bed. In prison, he tries to escape with again with the janitors but is caught again.
In prison, his bail is set at $900,000. After looking at the form, he gets a friend on the outside to fake a bail change form but is once again caught once he is on the outside. He gets a fellow inmate to hit him in the face with a phone and steals an ID badge from the doctor. He walks out of the prison pretending to be a doctor but is caught once again at a seedy motel. He keeps trying to call Phillip but he won’t talk to him. Steven steals a walkie-talkie and arranges for an outside outfit to wear and uses them to escape and get to the outside.
On the outside, Steven arrives to Phillip’s house in a limousine but Phillip won’t let him into the house. Phillip finds out that Steven isn’t even a real lawyer making him even more furious. Before Steven can say the one thing he wants to say to Phillip, the police arrive and take him away back to jail. They also arrest Phillip. Steven tells Phillip that he loves him but Phillip says he has only lied to him their entire relationship and has taken advantage of him this entire time. That was the last time he ever saw Phillip as they both go back to separate prisons.
This conversation leads Steven to the realization that his entire life has been built on lies and that he doesn’t even know himself and cannot go on existing leading Steven into a tailspin of depression. The doctors tell Steven that he has AIDS. This brings us back to the beginning of the movie. Steven laying in the hospital bed, waiting to die. Phillip finds out from another inmate that Steven is dying. Phillip tries to see him but he can’t. Steven has been sent to a private care facility where it is only a matter of time before he dies.
Phillip is able to call Steven. He is still angry with him but he wants to tell him that he still loves him and will never stop loving him and that they will always be destined to love each other forever. Steven can barely speak as his mind flashes to his childhood home. Later, Phillip finds out that Steven has died. A guard interrupts Phillip’s crying and tells him that his lawyer is here. His lawyer is Steven. He isn’t dead. Phillip slaps him. Steven faked his death. First, he starved himself and faked symptoms such as vomiting and really stuck with it losing a ton of weight. He was also able to fake his records. After stocking up at pills and having them all at once, he slips into a coma which gets him transferred to a private care facility. There, he telephoned the hospital telling them that he was an AIDS researcher and was able to get himself transferred as a potential candidate for an experimental procedure. Nobody had given him an AIDS test.
Back to the present, Steven explains that he didn’t want Phillip to know about it. Steven tells Phillip that underneath all those lies, there was something real. He knows exactly who he is. He is someone that loves Phillip Morris. After going to a claims court in order to get Phillip released from prison, Steven goes to the bathroom and finds one of his co-workers from the big financial company that he ripped off at the urinal next to him. A subtitle comes up stating that Steven was arrested trying to get Phillip released. We then cut to Steven in court. Considered an embarrassment to the state of Texas and the governor, Steven is given a life sentence. Coincidentally, the DA prosecuting the case is the sister in law of his former boss from the financial company. Phillip was released in 2006. Steven remains in lockdown with only one hour per day for supervised showers and exercise.
The film ends with Steven running away from the prison, escaping once again with prison guards chasing after him.
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