Note: My buddy Molly wrote this review because I was unable to attend the screening for the movie. Thanks, Molly!
To be fair, P.S. I Love You isn't as bad as I feared it would be, but it also wasn't nearly as sweet a movie as the premise could have created. Instead, Hilary Swank further proved that she's far better at serious dramas than slightly endearing romances. Hey, on the bright side, Gerard Butler was on screen more than I thought he would be and he spent much of the time either shirtless or in a tight tank top. No complaints there.
The premise of the movie is nothing more than it seems. A young couple in love is ripped apart when Gerry (Butler) dies fairly suddenly of a brain tumor. But before he passes he writes Holly (Swank) a series of letters and arranges for them to find her in various ways over the course of the year following his death. On the one hand, it's heart-meltingly sweet, the kind of movie that you just know you'll cry watching. On the other, is there something a little sadistic about forcing your widow to wait every day hoping for word from you only to draw out the heartbreak of your death over a whole year? It's an interesting conundrum, and one that P.S. doesn't quite figure out.
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The movie opens on a fight between Holly and Gerry in their Lower East Side apartment. It's dramatic and passionate, as fights between lovers tend to be, and a lot of threats are thrown around. In the end, they make up but don't actually resolve anything, and then, bam! Just like that, in the next scene we're at Gerry's wake. It's an incomplete photo of this love story the viewer is supposed to see as huge and important, but the blanks aren't ever really filled in. We get bits and pieces of their history (and swoon-worthy Gerard moments), but Hilary Swank rarely seems anything but whiny and insufferable.
Kathy Bates, who plays Holly's mother, has her reasons for disliking Gerry and his letter-writing, but mostly seems pretty unsupportive of her grieving daughter. Thankfully, she's a strong enough actress to make it work. Other bit players are all equal parts high and low, Lisa Kudrow is 80% just playing Phoebe, for better or for worse, and Harry Connick Jr. is kind of quirky/sweet, but to be honest he made me uncomfortable.
Overall the movie is fine, but nothing more. It'll make you cry if you're into that sort of thing and it will probably make you roll your eyes at least a few times. To its merit, it doesn't go the easiest possible route with the ending, but along the way there are moments when it seems like the kindest gesture is just too intentionally heartbreaking. I'm sure there will be a few people who love this movie, but for most it's a love story that (like the bad karaoke in the film) just doesn't hit the right notes.
P.S. There is not nearly enough Jeffrey Dean Morgan.
To see the trailer and more clips from P.S. I Love You, check out movies.ivillage.com.
Photos courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures