Director: Richard LaGravenese
Starring: Hilary Swank, Gerard Butler, Gina Gershon, Lisa Kudrow
The problem with P.S. I Love You is obvious before you’ve even seen the movie so long as you’ve watched the trailer. The marketing people – and, to a certain extent, the filmmakers themselves – don’t really know what to do with this story. It was marketed as a romantic comedy when it is in fact neither a romance nor a comedy. There are a few funny moments, yes, but the romance is over by the end of the opening credits. This is in actuality a drama about a woman, on her own for the first time in her life, discovering who she is and how to be on her own, and when the film itself remembers that, it isn't half bad.
The film opens with Holly (Hilary Swank) and Gerry (Gerard Butler) in an argument that feels so scripted and explanatory that you almost don’t have to watch the rest of the movie – it’s pretty much all laid out right here. Following this prologue, the film goes into its opening credits and then segues into the film proper, where Gerry has died of a brain tumour and Holly is left on her own. Shortly after Gerry’s death, Holly celebrates her birthday and learns that before he died, Gerry arranged for her to receive a series of letters and gifts from him spread out across her first year of widowhood.
In the interest of revealing the bad news first and saving the good, I’ll start with the elements which bothered me about the film. First: Holly spends a lot of time complaining about her apartment being too small, describing it as if it’s no bigger than a closet. Here’s the thing: that apartment is huge, especially for two people with careers that haven’t gotten off the ground yet and who are living in New York. Second: Holly takes a trip to Ireland with her friends, Sharon (Gina Gershon) and Denise (Lisa Kudrow) where they encourage her to pursue a singer named Billy (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), neither apparently having noticed the more than passing resemblance that Billy bears to Holly’s recently deceased husband. Third: this is a film of standard two hour length but it feels so much longer. Better pacing would have improved it immeasurably.
Now here’s the good news. When the film actually focuses on Holly’s grief and how she works through it, in the process finally getting to know herself as a person in her own right, it’s fairly compelling. Holly goes through a period of depression, cutting herself off from her friends and family, planning to become a modern-day Miss Havisham. She’s pulled out of this in time for the first of Gerry’s messages and then is occupied performing the various tasks he sets her to in his letters. During one of these tasks, she realizes suddenly that even though she hasn’t moved on, everyone else has started to. Denise is about to get married, Sharon is going to have a baby, and now Holly isn’t the center of attention anymore and she finds this fact not a little disconcerting. Refreshingly, her friends actually call her out on this. The scenes between the friends are the best because they feel the most genuine and natural.
As for the rest, there’s a subplot involving Holly’s budding friendship with Daniel (Harry Connick, Jr.), who works for her mother (Kathy Bates), that’s good in that it runs contrary to convention, but it also seems somewhat superfluous. The central performance by Swank is fine and her chemistry with her various leading men is passable if occasionally a little forced. All things considered, it isn’t really a bad movie, it just isn’t an especially good one.