P.S., I Love You

Category: P.S. I Love You Reviews | Posted by: stagewomanjen
Article Date: January 5, 2008 | Publication: Cord Weekly | Author: Mike Lippert
Publication/Article Link:http://www.cordweekly.com/cordweekly/myweb.php?hls=10034&news_id=1299

If a man needs to send his widow letters after he has died in order to teach her a valuable life lesson, then maybe itís one thatís just better left unlearned. Thatís essentially the complex banality of all human nature.

P.S. I Love You is one of those romantic films that spite human nature by making a lot out of nothing. Not that death is nothing, but those quiet, mournful, introspective times that usually follow it are; I like films that make nothing out of nothing. But by molding a film around this posthumous letter gimmick, P.S. I Love You is more screenwriting than human nature, trying to make life more exciting and complex than it is.

The film starts as Holly (Hilary Swank) and her husband Gerry (Gerard Butler) are having a fight. He is spontaneous and charming, a free spirit destined to act on impulse. She is conservative, uptight and canít hold a job because she hates working ďfor stupid people.Ē He wants kids, she doesnít. He wants her to do whatever she loves; she wants a long-term financial plan, etc.

Theyíre the kind of impossible couple you may admire but just canít quite understand. They arenít very compatible but stay together for the make-up sex.

After the credits roll, the film resumes without Gerry, who has mysteriously died of a brain tumor. Holly is crushed and locks herself in her apartment for weeks. But on her thirtieth birthday, a cake arrives at her door. Itís from Gerry. Inside the box is a letter.

Apparently Gerry knew that after his death Holly would isolate herself from the world and so he devised an intricate plan in order to help her move on without him. He will send her letters at certain times throughout the course of a year with instructions that she must follow.

The first letters are simple. Holly gets out of the apartment, buys the bedside lamp they talked about one day getting, goes out with her two best friends, Denise (Lisa Kudrow) and Sharon (Gina Gershon), to a karaoke bar, and so on Ė each letter recalling in Holly a past memory of Gerry which is seen in extended flashbacks.

Then the plot, a contrivance to begin with, bites off more than it can chew. Gerry sends Holly and her friends to Ireland to go fishing, to visit a local bar where a musician dedicates one of Gerryís songs to Holly, and other adventures like a spontaneous trip to Gerryísí parents house, where another letter awaits her.

What wonderful coincidences the film depends upon in order for the successful continuation of its plot. How could Gerry be sure that Holly would be in the bar at exactly the right time to hear the song, or that she would venture to see his parents without instructing her to do so?

By putting Holly into this plot she loses her human spontaneity; she doesnít make logical decisions, but ones that service only the narrative. A final letter which informs Holly ďto look for a signĒ is so convenient that it borders on the divine. The film is trying too hard.

The most powerful and endearing romances are ones that strike a chord because they have the ability to touch us on a human level. Itís a nice romantic notion that someone would love us enough to plan such an intricate Rube Goldberg Machine of a scheme in order to help us on our way to a better life, but the true heart of this film lies merely in the margins.

The best moments are the ones with the quirky friend Daniel (Harry Connick Jr.), who is the kind of guy who says whatever he is thinking, and follows this character logic through to the end. Or Hollyís mother, who is realistic and logical, wanting her daughter to stop playing games and move on with her life.

There are other moments in which the film seems to come alive as well. One is a flashback to the moment when Gerry and Holly met that is so natural and charming that it should have been in a better film and goes on for so long that you almost forget that it isnít.

Kudrow and Gershon each have their own individual truthful moments, Butler is likeable and charming, and Swank, when allowed to fall out of playing broad comedy and into personal moments of joy and pain, is as good as could be expected.

Yet the filmís success is only in moments. It never comes together as a whole, because the essential human element is pushed to the sidelines in favour of extraordinary coincidences.

It isnít, in fact, until towards the end, in an exchange between Holly and her mother, that the film touches upon the true heart of the matter: why find the love of your life, get married, try to build a life together, only to have them die too young? Whatís the point?

Thereís a great study of human nature somewhere in this material. Too bad itís not at the forefront.