Chick lit often, and quite justifiably, gets a bad rap for its seemingly endless permutations of young female city dwellers who, despite heinous bosses, meddlesome relatives, and romantic tension, eventually find serenity, sweetness, and light. The concepts often grow even more loathsome when the novels push themselves onto the film screen, and for every Bridget Jones’s Diary, audiences must cope with several other piles of weepy bullshit like Evening. As a clear addition to the latter pile, P.S. I Love You is fashioned upon a bestselling novel by Cecelia Ahern, who wrote this ode to chick lit at a very emotionally immature 20-years of age. Richard LaGravenese directs and co-writes the screenplay, and I expected better from the guy who transformed The Bridges of Madison County from a potboiler novel into a pretty good film. Unfortunately, P.S. I Love You suffers from a lazy, ineffective script and a completely unrealistic sense of how people actually speak to each other.
In order to enjoy this film, one must suspend disbelief from the rafters like a leprechaun by the clackers. You have to, unfortunately, put yourself in the place of the heroine and imagine what you’d want to have happen if your significant other has the audacity to die and leave you all by your lonesome. Talking smack about the film’s premise would generally qualify a film critic as a heartless bitch.
I am so totally OK with that.
Hilary Swank stars as Holly, a 29-year-old (ha!) New Yorker married ten years to dashing Irishman Gerry, played by the very Scottish Gerard Butler, who shows his kinder, gentler side after the primal bloodlust he displayed in 300. The protracted precredits scene shows the couple in a bitter row over something rather insubstantial, but the argument is intended to set up their relationship’s dynamics. As Holly tosses pillows and Gerry strategically avoids the fruits of his wife’s temper tantrum, the couple scraps over their tiny (yet rather posh) apartment, lack of disposable income, and the feeling that life hasn’t yet begun for the couple. This melodramic drivel couldn’t be more choreographed if this were a number from Riverdance, and the fight ends with the predictable slamming of doors. Then, of course, Gerry does a perfectly awful striptease (wearing suspenders and boxer shorts decorated with four-leaf clovers), and the obligatory hot, nasty make-up sex starts rolling through the meadow like a blarney stone. The entire scene functions as a very lazy method of telling us a whole lot of information in a short period of time, for after the opening credits roll, the movie opens two months later at Gerry’s funeral. Despite his almost perfect life and marriage, he has died from a brain tumor. Bless his little cotton socks.
As the young widow, Holly is entirely unsympathetic as a character. She doesn’t visibly mourn so much as continue pouting, and the filmmakers never let us forget that while the men in this film are perfect, the women are the ones with issues. Gerry, despite his fondness for Irish whiskey and his lack of abundant wealth, appears to be an utterly devoted husband who only wants to make his wife happy. It is also obvious that he is madly in love with his wife and puts up with her many neuroses, although it isn’t quite clear why the hell he bothers to do so. His hopeless romanticism continues beyond the grave, for during his illness, Gerry mustered up the time and mental acuity to write a year’s worth of letters to his wife. These letters, scheduled for gleeful monthly readings, are supposed to guide Holly through her first twelve months as a widow. This is supposed to be very sweet and thoughtful of him, because obviously, Holly can’t function without her husband’s daily advice and direction. However, these letters seems like a way for Gerry to keep controlling his wife’s actions, dictating her grieving process from the grave. Through Holly’s reveries, her husband also visibly hangs out in their apartment, and since Gerry is Irish, he carries around a guitar and sings a lot. Naturally.
Almost immediately after Gerry kicks it, Holly finds herself with the prospect of two suitors — both of whom are devastatingly handsome. Of course. As Daniel, Harry Connick Jr. reprises his Hope Floats character and adds a dash of Tourette’s syndrome. Connick actually creates a terrific character who, while slightly rude in his straightforwardness, actually approaches Holly with sincerity in a vain hope to bring her back to reality. Unfortunately, Holly doesn’t want sincerity, damn it. Actually, she doesn’t even know what she wants, and she never really has. She just wants another guy who’s too good to exist, which is where another charming Irishman enters the story (Jeffrey Dean Morgan and his naked ass). To complicate matters, Holly’s network of support, which includes her best friends Denise (Lisa Kudrow) and Sharon (Gina Gershon), mostly encourages Holly to follow her own ill-advised impulses. Gershon is woefully miscast as a dowdy matron, but Kudrow earns laughs as a cynical man-eater. As Holly’s mother, Elizabeth, the always wonderful Kathy Bates, is dreadfully underused until the final act, which is long after the audience has stopped taking the film seriously even as fluff film.
The filmmakers’ decision to cast Hillary Swank as the romantic lead only further devalues the worth of an Academy Award as an indicator of future value and acting versatility. Her critically acclaimed lead roles in Boys Don’t Cry and Million Dollar Baby highlighted Swank’s ambiguous sexuality to an obvious advantage. In P.S. I Love You, it doesn’t help that she’s manlier than her love interests, especially when she’s lip-synching Judy Garland tunes. Swank’s angular facial features and hardened physical features (push-up bra notwithstanding), along with her forceful acting style, don’t suggest the needed feminine vulnerability for the role. In addition, Swank lacks comic timing, and the harder she tries, the more obvious this shortcoming appears. Fortunately, many of her scenes also feature Gerard Butler (in flashbacks or as a vision), who oozes charm and testosterone from every follicle. However, the character of Gerry, who is a stock chick-flick fantasy character and is a complete waste of Butler’s talent. His Scottish burr is kinda distracting and quite unlike an authentic Irish brogue; but he is quite tasty to look at.
Watching P.S. I Love You was sorta like that one time I sat through an entire baseball game. Excuse me, how many innings are left? Oh … damn. The film weighs heavily in at 124 minutes and is split up incrementally between all twelve letters. Most of this time is spent working up to what are supposed to be tear-provoking scenes. And I hate that shit. Those audience members who do look forward to pulling out the carefully-stashed tissues will find little use for their precautionary measures. You might laugh a little. You definitely won’t cry. You will, however, wonder what the fuck is wrong with you for sitting in that theater.
Agent Bedhead (a.k.a. “Kimberly”) lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She and her little black heart can be found at agentbedhead.com.Tonight, We Dine in Chick Flick Hell!
P.S. I Love You / Agent Bedhead
Film Reviews | December 23, 2007 | Comments ()