P.S. I Love You, written and directed by Richard LeGravanese, is the screen adaptation of Cecelia Ahern’s novel which was set in Ireland but has been transported to New York City to create a vehicle for Hilary Swank to show her softer, funnier side.
Holly (Hilary Swank) and Gerry (Gerard Butler) have been married for ten years. They live in a nice size apartment complete with wide screen television, wide screen computer monitor and Holly’s multiple pairs of designer shoes. Holly says they’re poor. We should all experience that kind of poverty.
The opening scene, before the opening credits, is an argument between the two, essentially about what’s important in their lives. It’s not a bad scene and it’s clearly an attempt to help us understand the dynamics of their relationship and their individual personalities. Holly’s complaints about their “small” apartment make her look materialistic to Gerry’s romantic “all I need is you” outlook on life.
Ending in Butler’s comic striptease, sure to please the predominantly female audience, the two fall into bed, fade to black and the opening credits roll.
After the credits we find out Gerry has died and Holly has fallen into a black pit of grief. She can’t cope with his death, but Gerry has prepared for this. He’s written letters to give her tasks to complete to bring her through her first year without him. Not a bad concept for a film if only there were greater attempts to ground it in reality.
Holly clearly has been conceived by screenwriter/director Richard LaGravenese as a charming Audrey Hepburn character. Laid low by her loss, Holly grieves fashionably, even when wearing her dead husband’s boxer shorts. There’s always the right outfit to wear for any occasion, including Gerry’s whimsical funeral at the bar owned by Holly’s mother, well played by Kathy Bates.
The funeral which introduces us to Holly post Gerry, feels contrived with a tear stained Holly still well put together in her funeral togs and perfect up-swept hairdo.
Her journey through grief includes a birthday visit to a gay bar filled with stereotypes; a trip to Ireland which is beautifully shot and should help tourism, a command to sing at a karaoke club, which does produce a touching moment between Holly and dead Gerry. There’s a suggestion to buy a bedside lamp among other encouraging words to move her forward without Gerry. All of these are designed to showcase Swank who has some fine moments but too often is hampered by the screenplay’s insistence she be adorable.
One of the best scenes is one of the simplest. After buying the bedside lamp Swank is seen laying in bed turning it on and off, each flash of the lamp illuminating a flash of a memory of Gerry in their apartment.
The film isn’t particularly well paced or edited. Some scenes, for example an endless slapstick scene in a row boat with Holly and her friends, go on for far too long and have too little effect on the momentum of the story.
Hilary Swank, a gifted actor, isn’t done justice by the director’s attempt to turn her into a tragic yet comic heroine. Swank has some fine moments in the film, but the moments are interrupted by too many clichés and too many cool outfits. It’s frustrating to see her so fine in some scenes, then pushed to be adorable in others.
Gerard Butler, last seen dominating the screen with his fierce portrayal of King Leonidas in 300, does a charismatic and gentle turn in flashbacks as the doomed Gerry Kennedy. He makes you want to see more of him. Particularly more scenes with him and Holly to better understand their relationship.
As the impulsive Daniel, Harry Connick Jr. brings a quirky character that could have been a gimmick, sweetly to life. Jeffrey Dean Morgan does his best in a role that’s simply there to give Holly her future irresistible Irishman to fall in love with.
Gina Gershon and Lisa Kudrow are Holly’s friends, there to show us that even after the prolonged illness and death of her husband Holly always has her two best friends to fall back on for support. However, Kudrow’s man hunting Denise grows quickly tiresome and Gershon is left with nothing to do.
This isn’t a bad film, it’s a pleasant one, but it doesn’t pull its comic and dramatic elements together adeptly enough to make it the laugh through our tears story that I believe the filmmakers were trying to achieve. It has just enough good scenes to make me wonder what might have been if less attention was paid to keeping it light and more attention was paid to keeping it real.
The Upside: A solid cast.
The Downside: Less than stellar direction and screenplay.