P.S. I Love You

Movie Information

The Story: A young widow receives letters from her late husband telling her how to get on with life. The Lowdown: A preposterous concept that's given an even more preposterous -- and amazingly overlong -- treatment, not helped by a miscast lead.
Genre: Romantic Comedy-Drama
Director: Richard LaGravenese
Starring: Hilary Swank, Gerard Butler, Kathy Bates, Lisa Kudrow, Harry Connick Jr., Gina Gershon
Rated: PG-13

All right, who thought this was a good idea? Someone somewhere obviously did, and they need to be held accountable for it. Since director Richard LaGravenese also cowrote the screenplay—with the help of Kate and Leopold (2001) scribe Steven Rogers—he should probably be afforded the bulk of the blame, but it’s not like he made this in his garage without anyone knowing what was going on. Names should be taken and dramatic licenses revoked accordingly.

Presumably all this goes back to the source novel by Irish writer Cecelia Ahern. There are some movies—No Country for Old Men and the upcoming There Will Be Blood—that make me want to read the books on which they were based. P.S. I Love You causes me to make a mental note to avoid all possible contact with Ahern’s prose. Regardless of how many liberties Messrs. LaGravenese and Rogers may have taken in transforming the book into a movie, there’s little doubt that the central premise is intact. And that premise is a doozy.

Holly (Hilary Swank) and Gerry Kennedy (Gerard Butler) are a movie-style cute couple in the throes of movie-style young love living in glamorously art-directed “poverty” on the Lower East Side of New York City. They’re the ideal couple, except that Holly is a little uptight and Gerry is a little carefree. But Gerry has to be carefree, because he’s Irish. Actually, he’s not just Irish, he’s Irish (pronounced “Oirish”), meaning endless shots of Jameson’s, raucous partying, the gift of blarney and shamrock-festooned boxer shorts. He even does a striptease in those, and it’s downright embarrassing—as well as a testament to how CGI-enhanced his large and sinewy muscles were in 300.

Life is all skittles and Guinness for this pair—except that Gerry expires during the opening credits. This is the sort of thing known for its ability to put a damper on your romance, but not in this case. Despite the fact that Gerry was dying of a brain tumor, he had the presence of mind to map out the next year of Holly’s life before handing in his dinner pail. He’s written her letters (to be delivered in all manner of improbable ways), arranged gifts, lined-up trips, you name it—all to insure Holly’s smooth transition into getting on with her life. Just exactly how instructions from beyond the grave by your late husband are going to help you get over him is a point the screenplay seems a little fuzzy on. But then Holly has taken grieving to the next plateau—she carts his ashes with her wherever she goes. No, I’m not kidding. A wild night at a gay bar with her faux-eccentric friends (Lisa Kudrow and Gina Gershon) just wouldn’t be complete without that urn-full of Gerry’s remains. OK, this has the potential for dark comedy or a grim examination of Holly’s mental state, but as the stuff of romantic comedy, it’s not only a little creepy, it’s icky.

It doesn’t get any better when Gerry sends her—and her buddies—on a trip to Ireland where Holly awkwardly falls into the sack with another Irish charmer (Jeffrey Dean Morgan, TV’s Grey’s Anatomy), who just happens to have been Gerry’s lifelong buddy and band mate. Oh, but this overlooks her very strange relationship with Harry Connick Jr. as a guy with serious mental issues (people are always reminding him to take his meds) and a penchant for blurting out whatever he thinks.

Making matters just that much worse is the fact that the movie simply wanders all over the place without much in the way of anything that could be called structure. No matter what “progress” Holly seems to be making via Gerry’s post-life stage-managing, she always ends up moping in her apartment. By mid-film I was praying for Clint Eastwood to show up and take her off life support. No such luck. The film simply meanders—for a deadly 126 minutes—till Holly arbitrarily snaps out of it, and LaGravenese takes pity on us and rolls the credits.

It’s been noted by just about everyone that Hilary Swank has zero flair for romantic comedy, but let’s be honest—no one could elevate this stuff. The saddest thing is the film has a few pithy observations early on. There’s a moment when Holly flirts with the idea of spending her remaining days holed up in her apartment like Miss Havisham in Great Expectations (except everyone seems to think the character was “Miss Haversham”), only to have it pointed out that you have to be rich in order to indulge your self-pity to that degree. Fine. In fact, it’s great to see that pointed out, since movies never address this, but then what happens? Holly spends a year living on self-pity with nary a bill-collector, landlord or any other mundane concern in sight! A script that falls prey to a genre convention is bad enough, but one that falls prey to a genre convention it’s already pointed out as unrealistic is the ne plus ultra of sloppiness. That’s actually symptomatic of the whole mess. Rated PG-13 for sexual references and brief nudity

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

One thought on “P.S. I Love You

  1. Janet

    Don’t you think you are being a bit over dramatic? I mean come on look at the scores. I don’t have it in front of me but I think from what I saw it was 20% Critics to over 80% public. Don’t you have to wonder if maybe, just maybe I am over thinking this just a little bit? I would love to respond to every single one of you with this but I cannot, no time so you are the lucky one. But really think about it. Don’t you think that maybe trying to be too much of Siskel and Ebert that you are actually missing the beauty of the show. I don’t know, all I know is that I come here to see if I want to maybe spend the money to watch a movie and when the public is so far beyond the critics it makes you wonder.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.