Movie Review: P.S. I Love You (Kid's Help Phone)
By Jessica Reaves, Chicago Tribune Staff Writer
You think you've got relationship problems? Clearly you haven't met Holly Kennedy, who gets mail from her husband Gerry, a swaggering, hard-drinking, fun-loving, totally besotted romantic. Who has been dead for weeks.
The letters, delivered to Holly (Hilary Swank) in all manner of clever ways, are more or less laundry lists of what Gerry (Gerard Butler) would like his wife to do in his absence. Composed in the throes of his battle with a brain tumor, these instructions go a long way to qualifying Gerry for Husband of the Year (Dead or Alive); Holly is sternly instructed to go shopping for lots of cute outfits, which she should wear when she goes out on the town with her girlfriends.
These pleasant diversions, combined with the fact that we never witness Gerry's illness, allow Swank to grieve in the prettiest way imaginable. There are tears, of course, and Swank does them very well. But Holly's nadir, dancing around her living room in her dead husband's Oxford shirt and suspenders, looks a lot better than most mortals' best days, and this does not make Holly a particularly sympathetic mourner. It also doesn't help that the movie goes out of its way to demonstrate that while Holly and Gerry get along superbly once one of them is dead, in life they had the kind of hot-cold relationship that might prompt a concerned neighbor to call the cops.
On paper, "P.S." has everything going for it. The scenery - the Irish countryside and New York's Little Italy - is beautifully shot, the message (love is forever, yada yada) is eminently digestible, and the cast (which includes Kathy Baker and "Grey's Anatomy" alum Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is undeniably appealing. And while the movie isn't bad, per se, it's also not very good. Given its potential, that qualifies as a disappointment.
So why doesn't it work? Part of the problem is that director LaGravenese never takes control; the movie simply follows Holly's moods, which swing manically between giddy joy (another letter from dead husband!) to cranky self-absorption (why aren't people more excited about letters from dead husband?). Likewise, the script, co-written by LaGravenese (who also penned such world-class drivel as "The Mirror Has Two Faces" and "Bridges of Madison County") and Steven Roberts, is incredibly uneven. Snippets of sharp, witty dialogue - delivered by Lisa Kudrow and Harry Connick Jr., whose turn as the socially inept Daniel is easily the best thing about this movie - are lost in a sea of sappy cliches and too-cute-for-words plot twists. The source material, a popular novel written by Cecelia Ahern, the 20-something daughter of Ireland's prime minister, shares the blame for these shortfalls, although Ahern's book does a better job of balancing Holly's perfectly human, often unattractive grieving process with the fairy-dusted promise of a happier tomorrow.
The other problem, and it's a big one, is Swank herself. One of the most gifted dramatic actors working in movies today, she is stunningly ill suited for romantic comedy (or this one, anyway). Everything about her is hard: her chiseled jawline, her abs - even her eyes, which can radiate fear and anger with such force, are incapable of softening enough to make her turn as Holly, who is supposed to be klutzy and lovably unfocused, believable.
"P.S. I Love You"
Directed by Richard LaGravenese; screenplay by LaGravenese and Steven Rogers, based on the novel by Cecelia Ahern; photographed by Terry Stacey; edited by David Moritz; music by John Powell; production design by Shepherd Frankel; produced by Wendy Finerman, Broderick Johnson, Andrew A. Kosove and Molly Smith. A Warner Brothers release. Running time: 2:06. MPAA rating: PG-13 (for sexual references and brief nudity).
Holly - Hilary Swank
Gerry - Gerard Butler
Denise - Lisa Kudrow
Daniel - Harry Connick Jr.