Review: 'P.S. I Love You'

Category: P.S. I Love You Reviews | Posted by: admin
Article Date: December 20, 2007 | Publication: Daily Camera | Author: Jeanine Fritz
Publication/Article Link:Daily Camera

Rated PG-13 for sexual references and brief nudity

Released: December 21, 2007 Nationwide

Cast: Hilary Swank, Gerard Butler, Lisa Kudrow, Harry Connick Jr., Kathy Bates
Director: Richard LaGravenese
Producer: Wendy Finerman, Broderick Johnson, Andrew A. Kosove, Molly Smith
Writer: Cecelia Ahern, Richard LaGravenese
Genre: Comedy, Drama

Typically, I'm not a huge fan of the romantic comedy. I think they're romantically irresponsible, filling people's minds with ideas about how pretty love can be if only all the right things fall into place. Back here in the real world, love can be pretty, but it often doesn't commence obediently when everything falls into place, and it rarely looks anything like the formulas presented in current Hollywood cinema.

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That being said, few will argue the powerful escapism offered by flicks like Richard LaGravenese's "P.S. I Love You" isn't without a measure of merit. Sometimes checking out and watching someone else's sweet life drift by is a good time.

That's not to say Holly Kennedy's (Hilary Swank) life is all sugar.

Sure, her fights with Gerry (the bedimpled Gerard Butler), the charming Irishman she married at 19, don't seem to tread anywhere near painful or real. They squabble about what he said to her mother about children, and whether they can afford a bigger apartment and what to do about their careers. Topically, the big fight at the start of the film is dead on; emotionally, however, it doesn't resonate. Both Swank and Butler conduct the fight with a twinkle in their eye and anyone who's been in a real fight with a real person they really loves knows that twinkle isn't ever-present.

Even 10 minutes into the film, when Holly's husband is suddenly dead, the twinkle of the film never fades. And this would probably be acceptable if we weren't dealing with something as dark as the fabulous Gerry suddenly dying from a brain tumor.

What elevates "P.S. I Love You" above your standard rom-com fare is also what brings it thudding back down to Earth. Casually mentioning Gerry's died of a brain tumor without really touching the staggering drama inherent in that situation feels an awful lot like showing a gun in the first act and not using it by the third.

But while Holly spends the first week or so lounging about the house, isolated, filthy and grieving, Swank and LaGravenese manage to capture the horrors of loss, particularly the inescapable and crushing wave of realization every time she notices she's alone.

Throughout the film, Swank wrests control, quashing the silliness, and allows the gravity of her character's situation to peek out from between the silly dialogue and cheeky scenes written for her co-stars, Lisa Kudrow and Gina Gershon.

Over the course of a year, Holly receives letters from Gerry, written before his death and planned carefully to aid her in moving on. The sentiment is wonderful and the comfort this woman takes from getting word from beyond the grave is undeniably touching.

A sub-plot involving a local barkeep (Harry Connick Jr.) in love with Holly and afflicted with an inability to keep every thought spilling from his mouth offer some of the movie's best lines but also turns the focus of the film from "How Will Holly Recover?" to "Who Will Holly Recover With?" Again, standard rom-com, but the potential was so much more.

With Kathy Bates playing Holly's single, abandoned mother, the makings of a deeper exploration into the various ways loss manifests in life and the hope people can find in the midst of pain is again only glossed over.

Despite all of this, the heart of the film, co-written by LaGravenese and Steven Rogers, is in the right place. The production perhaps suffers only from wanting to do too many things well. Connick's lines are deadpan and hilarious, Bates' performance is grounded and Swank brings more emotional range to the character than seems possible. You may be frustrated by the tonal tug of war between the fun of a nekkid beefcake's bum and the severity of a loved one's death, but maybe in the end, that tug of war isn't too far from how we all muddle through life.

Contact Camera Film Critic Jeanine Fritz at 303-473-1397 or moviefritz@gmail.com