Directed by: Richard LaGravenese
Starring: Hilary Swank, Gerard Butler, Kathy Bates, Lisa Kudrow, Harry Connick Jr., Gina Gershon
All right, who thought this was a good idea? Someone somewhere obviously did, and they need to be held accountable for it. Since director Richard LaGravenese also cowrote the screenplay—with the help of Kate and Leopold (2001) scribe Steven Rogers—he should probably be afforded the bulk of the blame, but it’s not like he made this in his garage without anyone knowing what was going on. Names should be taken and dramatic licenses revoked accordingly.
Presumably all this goes back to the source novel by Irish writer Cecelia Ahern. There are some movies—No Country for Old Men and the upcoming There Will Be Blood—that make me want to read the books on which they were based. P.S. I Love You causes me to make a mental note to avoid all possible contact with Ahern’s prose. Regardless of how many liberties Messrs. LaGravenese and Rogers may have taken in transforming the book into a movie, there’s little doubt that the central premise is intact. And that premise is a doozy.
Holly (Hilary Swank) and Gerry Kennedy (Gerard Butler) are a movie-style cute couple in the throes of movie-style young love living in glamorously art-directed “poverty” on the Lower East Side of New York City. They’re the ideal couple, except that Holly is a little uptight and Gerry is a little carefree. But Gerry has to be carefree, because he’s Irish. Actually, he’s not just Irish, he’s Irish (pronounced “Oirish”), meaning endless shots of Jameson’s, raucous partying, the gift of blarney and shamrock-festooned boxer shorts. He even does a striptease in those, and it’s downright embarrassing—as well as a testament to how CGI-enhanced his large and sinewy muscles were in 300.
Life is all skittles and Guinness for this pair—except that Gerry expires during the opening credits. This is the sort of thing known for its ability to put a damper on your romance, but not in this case. Despite the fact that Gerry was dying of a brain tumor, he had the presence of mind to map out the next year of Holly’s life before handing in his dinner pail. He’s written her letters (to be delivered in all manner of improbable ways), arranged gifts, lined-up trips, you name it—all to insure Holly’s smooth transition into getting on with her life. Just exactly how instructions from beyond the grave by your late husband are going to help you get over him is a point the screenplay seems a little fuzzy on. But then Holly has taken grieving to the next plateau—she carts his ashes with her wherever she goes. No, I’m not kidding. A wild night at a gay bar with her faux-eccentric friends (Lisa Kudrow and Gina Gershon) just wouldn’t be complete without that urn-full of Gerry’s remains. OK, this has the potential for dark comedy or a grim examination of Holly’s mental state, but as the stuff of romantic comedy, it’s not only a little creepy, it’s icky.
It doesn’t get any better when Gerry sends her—and her buddies—on a trip to Ireland where Holly awkwardly falls into the sack with another Irish charmer (Jeffrey Dean Morgan, TV’s Grey’s Anatomy), who just happens to have been Gerry’s lifelong buddy and band mate. Oh, but this overlooks her very strange relationship with Harry Connick Jr. as a guy with serious mental issues (people are always reminding him to take his meds) and a penchant for blurting out whatever he thinks.
Making matters just that much worse is the fact that the movie simply wanders all over the place without much in the way of anything that could be called structure. No matter what “progress” Holly seems to be making via Gerry’s post-life stage-managing, she always ends up moping in her apartment. By mid-film I was praying for Clint Eastwood to show up and take her off life support. No such luck. The film simply meanders—for a deadly 126 minutes—till Holly arbitrarily snaps out of it, and LaGravenese takes pity on us and rolls the credits.
It’s been noted by just about everyone that Hilary Swank has zero flair for romantic comedy, but let’s be honest—no one could elevate this stuff. The saddest thing is the film has a few pithy observations early on. There’s a moment when Holly flirts with the idea of spending her remaining days holed up in her apartment like Miss Havisham in Great Expectations (except everyone seems to think the character was “Miss Haversham”), only to have it pointed out that you have to be rich in order to indulge your self-pity to that degree. Fine. In fact, it’s great to see that pointed out, since movies never address this, but then what happens? Holly spends a year living on self-pity with nary a bill-collector, landlord or any other mundane concern in sight! A script that falls prey to a genre convention is bad enough, but one that falls prey to a genre convention it’s already pointed out as unrealistic is the ne plus ultra of sloppiness. That’s actually symptomatic of the whole mess. Rated PG-13 for sexual references and brief nudity