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Sappy sentiment, not scorn, lifts 'P.S. I Love You'

Category: P.S. I Love You Reviews
Article Date: December 21, 2007 | Publication: seattlepi.com | Author: William Arnold
Source: http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/movies/344343_ps21q.html

Posted by: stagewomanjen


As we all know, Hollywood does not tend to tailor big-budget, wide-release movies squarely at a female audience anymore. Even movies that are skewed toward women are invariably filled with elements designed to make them appealing to a 13-year-old male demographic.

So "P.S. I Love You" is an anomaly. It's an expensive star vehicle that also happens to be a teary, unabashedly sappy, romantic comedy with every element as purely calculated to appeal to a heterosexual woman's romantic fantasies as an episode of "All My Children."

Critics are sure to savage it, but I found the movie strangely refreshing. In its way, it's almost daringly radical in its old-fashioned sentimentality, and the bawling, mostly female audience at the Seattle preview two weeks ago seemed to be eating it up.

It's the story of Holly (Hilary Swank) and Gerry (Gerard Butler), a Manhattan couple whom we meet as they're in the midst of a late-night argument in which she's unleashing all her pent-up frustrations and disappointments of their nine married years.

Cut to several months later and Gerry has died of a brain tumor. Holly is utterly lost without him, but it soon turns out she has a unique solace: the dying Gerry has left a series of cheerful letters to help guide her through the grief and adjust to her new life.

The rest of the movie follows her merry widowhood as her late husband's voice arranges a series of confidence-building adventures for her, including a trip to his native Ireland, and a tryst with his boyhood best mate (Seattle's Jeffrey Dean Morgan).

While this is proceeding on one level, the movie also is progressively flashing back to dramatize the couple's meeting, courtship, marriage and earlier married life together -- so the film is really two love stories in one.

The idea of love with a self-sacrificing ghost is hardly a new one in the movies but director Richard LaGravenese makes it seem novel by fully embracing its breathlessly romantic premise and banishing any trace of hip New Millennium cynicism.

His script also is light and clever, his direction gives the right schmaltzy touch to most of the scenes and he balances his epic love story with unobtrusive comedy and a stronger-than-usual supporting cast (Kathy Bates, Lisa Kudrow, Harry Connick Jr.).

Two-time Oscar winner Swank at first seems glaringly miscast in this kind of sudsy material but she gradually moves into the part with great authority and conviction, and she's as self-deprecatingly funny and endearing as she has ever been.

But "P.S." is mostly a showcase for the masculine charm of Scotland's Butler. A fluffy romance may seem an odd follow-up to his muscle-flexing hit "300," but the fast-rising star of "Phantom of the Opera" knows his fans and this romance is their Christmas gift.

GRADE:B

 


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