Hilary Swank, Gerard Butler, Kathy Bates, Gina Gershon, Lisa Kudrow
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY
Richard LaGravenese (Steven Rogers co-wrote)
I'm kind of an unusual film critic.
Gee whiz, I can hear your collective "DUH!" from here.
Seriously, though, I enjoy being manipulated. Most film critics HATE manipulative films...even to the point of calling them lazy filmmaking, at best.
Yet, I have a certain unashamed admiration for the filmmaker who goes all out to create the masterfully manipulative tearjerker or inspirational film. While I seldom rate them near the top of the cinematic heap, I've been known to enjoy my share of such films and to rate them higher than many film critics.
During a year, however, in which grief has been beautifully explored in the far too underseen "Grace is Gone" and "Things We Lost in the Fire," "P.S., I Love You" is a stunningly average film from co-writer and director Richard LaGravenese starring Hilary Swank as Holly, a young woman whose husband (Gerard Butler) dies of brain cancer but whom leaves his wife 10 letters to be given to her individually throughout her first year of widowhood.
Hasn't this theme of letters being left behind by a loved one been played out already in recent years, successfully by the indie "Eve of Understanding" and not so successfully in Cameron Crowe's "Elizabethtown?"
Part of the problem with "P.S., I Love You" is that it's a "been there, seen that" sort of film in which the other times we've seen it it has been far more convincing and entertaining.
The Oscar-winning Swank borders on dreadful here, and one can't help but ponder whether or not the fresh grief of her own divorce kept her from becoming emotionally vulnerable enough to pull off such a role.
Gerard Butler, most recently of "300," is surprisingly effective, however, and Kathy Bates delights as Elizabeth, Holly's ultra-concerned mother. Gina Gershon and Lisa Kudrow are sadly ineffective as Holly's best friends largely due to a considerable lack of character development, while Harry Connick, Jr., does alright as one of Holly's boy pals.
LaGravenese penned "The Bridges of Madison County," a film that practically defined manipulative weeper, so his remarkably off-putting script here is a major disappointment. Likewise, the film runs far too long and never quite achieves LaGravenese's obviously desired effect to be both a feel-good flick and one with a lesson about the grieving process.
Flashbacks are utilized throughout the film, an effect that grows tiresome though it is occasionally used to tremendous effect.
Despite being immensely flawed, "P.S., I Love You" is likely to appeal to those who enjoy this sort of weepy, melodramatic relationship-centered drama, though again it is done far more effectively in John Cusack's "Grace is Gone."
Swank disappoints, Butler surprises and "P.S., I Love You" ends up not much more than a footnote.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic