Wednesday, December 19, 2007

"P.S. I Love You" -- * *



Though at the end of the day, it's a harmless (if shameless estrogen-baiting) crowd-pleaser, "P.S. I Love You" still has the most loathsome storyline in quite a while, a miscast leading lady, and matters aren't helped by its complete lack of a sense of pacing or structure. I thought the movie was plodding toward its conclusion about five different times, but instead, it has the gall to run over two hours, at which point those with either a penis or a low tolerance for syrup may have already slit their throats. Occasionally, while taking notes during certain screenings, I'll just jot down stream-of-consciousness thoughts, and when looking back on my "P.S." notes, the two largest-writ sentiments were "I HATE THIS PREMISE" and "THIS MOVIE WILL NOT END."

In our opening scene, we see married couple Holly (Hilary Swank) and Jerry (Gerard Butler) fighting, then cutely making up before the opening credits that alternate between photos of the couple together and shots of New York City in wintertime. After, we learn Jerry has died of brain cancer and poor Holly is understandably sad. Despite attempts by her two friends (Lisa Kudrow and Gina Gershon) and mother (Kathy Bates) to cheer her up, she doesn't get re-engaged in her life until she receives a package in the mail from *gasp* Jerry. You see, Jerry, lovable scamp that he is/was, pre-arranged an extremely complex plan to have Holly slowly receive pre-written letters from him (apparently all planned while one would assume he would have been weak and bed-ridden) where he encourages her to do things she's never done and live her life to the fullest. Cringing yet?



The script here is equally futile in its structure and its content. It shifts from Holly dealing with her husband's death, to a way-bloated trip to Ireland (one of Jerry's post-death requests), to an extended flashback of the two of them meeting, to a section of Holly bonding with her mom, to a too-soon romance for Holly, to (SPOILER ALERT!) her finding her life's purpose as a shoe-designer. And lo and behold, we're at the 125-minute mark. But it's not just the structure-- the jokes are particularly lame, shamelessly chasing the "Sex & the City" crowd with none of that show's wit or edge. Instead, it throws us forced life lessons, stripteasing Gerard Butler, an obsession with shoes, and hideous gay stereotypes lisping and shrieking about Mariah Carey (how long ago was this script written??).

There are good actresses out there who just aren't made for romantic comedies or fluffy feel-gooderies, and Swank is one of them. She's not quite "bad" here, just all wrong. Following her "Reaping" attempt at doing more popcorn fare, she shows her limitations as an actress here. While she actually does very well with the dramatic/emotional material on display, it's evident that comedy is not her forte. And in terms of the mushy romance stuff, she just can't pull off the "charming" thing. She's great at playing paralyzed boxers or girls conflicted with sexual identity, but when asked to star in movies where her character isn't not suffering, she seems to flounder.



For being billed above the title, Butler's not really in this thing very much, but when he is, he's all charm, smiles and abdominal muscles. It's clear the guy wants to do a bankable female-skewing flick to avoid "300"-driven typecasting, but this isn't it. With a filmography including "Phantom of the Opera," "300" and "P.S. I Love You," for a decent actor, the guy has very bad taste in scripts.

Gershon makes little-to-no impression other than "golly, she's pretty," but Kudrow fares particularly well. Though her running joke (the only real laughs in the movie) has been spoiled in the trailers, thankfully, its payoff hasn't. Her performance on "The Comeback" was one of the finest pieces of acting TV's seen in years, and with her marvelous performances in Don Roos's "The Opposite of Sex" and "Happy Endings," she proved she was/is the best actress of all the "Friends." This "quirky best friend" role is beneath her, but I'm just happy to see her in a movie, on the hopes that it'll lead to things more deserving of her talents (Mike White, write this woman a quirky/dark character piece!)



Poor Kathy Bates. Granted, she has a meatier role here than in "Fred Claus," where she played Santa's mother, but still. One of the greatest actresses of the last quarter-century, Bates received her last Oscar nomination only 4 years ago, and already her career has shriveled? Maybe she just wants minimal working hours and easy after after doing the heavy lifting for years (or at least I hope its by choice), but I miss her giving real performances.

Don't even get me started on the contrivances here, including Swank whoring it up in Ireland, a calculated fishing trip between the three women, and a structure based on seasons (comparing it unfavorably to "Juno"). On top of which, in what world would Hilary Swank, Gina Gershon and Lisa Kudrow be best friends? Three distinctly different character types fit nicely together in pandering studio-assembled movies, but not so much in the real world. Sorry, I just didn't buy it.



Equipped with set-pieces including a priest wackily cursing, three woman shrieking and falling down on a fishing boat, and Hilary Swank tripping and breaking her nose while singing karaoke, you should already know if "P.S. I Love You" is for you. If the promise of Moh Kushla learning to love herself through world travel and shoemaking has you salivating, have a blast.


"P.S. I Love You" opens nationwide this Friday, December 21st

2 Comments:

Blogger Michael said...

I so loved the wacky, cursing priest in "Million Dollar Baby."

9:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This was a wonderful movie and not only would you want someone to do this for you, if you have ever had someone close to you die you will understand how hard it is to move on. And understand why the pre-planned arrivals slowly help Holly to move on with her life.

7:50 AM  

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