P.S. I Love You

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At the moment, movie tearjerkers about late spouses who haunt loved ones are all the rage.

In "Grace Is Gone," a father and two daughters cope with the loss of Mom in Iraq. In "Things We Lost in the Fire," a mother and two youngsters mourn the death of the husband and father. "P.S. I Love You" is the oddest of the bunch, though, because it feels like the late husband of Hilary Swank's Holly Kennedy, a happy-go-lucky Irishman played engagingly by Gerard Butler, refuses to go away no matter how dead he is. Odder still, when we do see the couple together -- in an opening scene and then in flashbacks -- there is always so much tension between the two.

This bittersweet story about a bereaved young widow struggling to move on might connect with female audiences. Yet its boxoffice should be modest despite the presence of two-time Oscar-winning Swank. The film, written (with Steven Rogers) and directed by Richard LaGravenese, is long and drags in places. But the chief problem is that "P.S." feels like a gimmick.

The film starts awkwardly with a curious sequence in which Holly (Swank) and Gerry (Butler) quarrel about a remark he made over dinner with Holly's highly judgmental mother (Kathy Bates). Then, with calculated abruptness, the movie plunks you down at Gerry's wake in a Manhattan restaurant run by Holly's mother.

Girlfriends Sharon (Gina Gershon) and Denise (Lisa Kudrow) comfort Holly while Sharon's husband John (James Marsters) gets the Irish toasts going. Denise is soon cruising the joint in a determined search for her own potential mate while the new bartender Daniel (Harry Connick Jr.) hits on Holly.

A few weeks later, it's her 30th birthday. A birthday cake and tape recording arrive -- from Gerry! Seems while Gerry lay dying of a brain tumor, he concocted a scheme to send letters to Holly for the year following his death. They come through the mail or are discovered in clothes. At one point, he buys her a trip with her girlfriends to his native Ireland. There she meets a new Irish playmate, William (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), and visits Gerry's parents, who also hand her a letter.

Nothing here outside the realm of plausibility, but how exactly are these constant communications from the dead supposed to ease Holly's transition to her new life? They serve, for dramatic purposes, to remind her of their courtship and marriage. Just once you'd like to see her get annoyed at these messages from a dead spouse who won't go away. But then she has her disapproving Mom to do that.

It turns out Gerry's parents weren't too thrilled about the marriage, either. So why, you wonder, is an audience supposed to care about this couple?

There is nothing special about this romance. Holly does like to watch old Hollywood movies, which remind you of how these things were once done. Now it's all such a convoluted mess of letters from the dead and guys who can't measure up to a ghost.

The Irish scenery is quite lovely as caught by Terry Stacey's camera and designer Shepherd Frankel makes the Irish and American pubs, homes and apartments feel cozy and lived-in. But the movie itself feels oddly uninhabited.

P.S. I LOVE YOU
Warner Bros.
Alcon Entertainment presents a Wendy Finerman productionin association with Grosvenor Park Films
Credits:
Director: Richard LaGravenese
Screenwriters: Richard LaGravenese, Steven Rogers
Based on the novel by: Cecelia Ahern
Producers: Wendy Finerman, Broderick Johnson, Andrew A. Kosove, Molly Smith
Executive producers: John H. Starke, Lisa Zupan, James Hollond, Donald A. Starr, Daniel J.B. Taylor
Director of photography: Terry Stacey
Production designer: Shepherd Frankel
Music: John Powell
Co-producers: James Flynnn, Morgan O'Sullivan, Steven P. Wegner
Costume designer: Cindy Evans
Editor: David Moritz
Cast:
Holly: Hilary Swank
Gerry: Gerard Butler
Sharon: Gina Gershon
Denise: Lisa Kudrow
Elizabeth: Kathy Bates
Daniel: Harry Connick Jr.
William: Jeffrey Dean Morgan
John: James Marsters
Running time -- 124 minutes
MPAA rating: PG-13
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