'P.S. I Love You' not a bad date flick

Category: P.S. I Love You Reviews | Posted by: stagewomanjen
Article Date: December 23, 2007 | Publication: hamptomroads.com | Author: Mal Vincent
Publication/Article Link:http://hamptonroads.com/2007/12/%2526%2523039;p.s.-i-love-you%2526%2523039;-not-bad-date-flick

In luv stories, as opposed to legitimate love stories, if it’s not one thing it’s another. The characters always want what they don’t have.

Finding love just isn’t the happy ending it used to be back when Snow White finally got a kiss from Prince Charming. In “P.S. I Love You,” based on a novel by Irish writer Cecelia Ahern, love is lost early.

Hilary Swank, acting like a babe rather than a fighter this time, gets teary over losing the hunk from “300,” Gerard Butler. How will she survive? Can she find a new life? Will Harry Connick Jr. fill the gap? Or maybe she should take a trip to Ireland and find a guy who looks just like poor, dead Butler. Will you pass the tissue, please?

The film starts with a good opening scene that runs something like 10 minutes. Holly and Gerry are climbing the stairs to their cramped little apartment and they are involved in a loud argument.

Interesting. We expected sweet sap.

The camera follows them into the apartment as we learn that the argument is about the fact that they have just come from a visit with her mother, played by Kathy Bates, and they have let the secret out that there is a disagreement about whether to have a baby. The clock is ticking, but they have little money and they have this cramped apartment.

He is a fun-loving guy who seeks to avoid any argument by having fun. He does a strip tease for her, down to boxers and suspenders. They laugh. Before the scene is over, we are convinced not only that they are in love, but that they are made for each other.

If director Richard La-Gravenese had just kept up the pace, he might have had a classic here. Instead, we quickly get down to cliches. Gerry dies of a brain tumor. Holly is devastated. She retreats to the apartment and looks at Judy Garland singing “The Man That Got Away” from “A Star Is Born” (which, at least, gives us a look at one of the greatest performances of all musical film). Then the ploy hits. Gerry has left letters floating about. They encourage Holly to get on with her life, buy herself some new clothes and find another man.

This is when it gets a little goofy. The letters are found in birthday cakes and all manner of unusual places. Take your choice: Buy the premise or be miserable until you get out of the theater.

The leads are likable. Swank, at long last, shows a feminine side that her biggest roles have kept hidden. After winning twin Oscars by impersonating a boy in “Boys Don’t Cry” and beating up people of both sexes as a boxer in “Million Dollar Baby,” she now proves to be a babe herself.

Just to emphasize the fact, the director has her pose in underwear whenever possible. Even though she is often unemployed in the movie, she models expensive designer clothes – the way Doris Day used to do. She’s toned, she’s toothy and she’s definitely no boy.

Butler is something of a star after leading the Spartans to a noisy death in “300,” the most surprising hit of the past year. He and Hugh Jackman have just about cornered the market when it comes to finding men, rather than boys, to play leads.

Butler has a mischievous glint that helps the movie get out of the sappy category. Thankfully for his fans, the fact that he dies early in the film doesn’t mean he can’t come back often in flashbacks.

The film is blessed with a fine supporting cast. Harry Connick Jr. has, perhaps, the most interesting, complex character – a bartender who is disliked because he is blunt and honest. The bartender just might end up with the lovelorn Holly. It’s Connick’s best film role yet.

Taking top comic honors, particularly since laughs are so badly needed, is Lisa Kudrow as a desperate “best friend” who wants a man fast, and with no complications. She checks out men with a quick questionnaire – and usually finds, quickly, that they are disqualified. Bates is fine, but underused, as the mother who always disapproved of Gerry, particularly when he was alive.

“P.S. I Love You” is no great shakes, but it’s altogether pleasant and serves nicely as the romantic drama that was perhaps needed in the current mix.

This may well be the one the ladies will demand on those holiday dates. Guys, if they are smart, will go along. It isn’t that bad.