This romantic comedy about love after death is charming and funny, but Hilary Swank keeps her distance. *** Three Stars
By Robin Rowe
HOLLYWOOD, CA (Hollywood Today) 12/23/07 – “I love stories that remind me of what’s important in life,” says Hilary Swank who stars as a young widow in “P.S. I Love You” who’s lost her husband to cancer. The film is directed by Richard LaGravenese who co-wrote the screenplay with Steven Rogers based on the novel by Cecelia Ahern. “Richard has always been one of my favorite screenwriters, and I have such enormous respect for him as a director,” says Swank. “I love working with him, so I would have done anything he asked me to do. But this movie was easy to say yes to because I really loved it.”
In the opening scene of “P.S.,” Swank is thrashing her devil-may-care Irish husband Gerard Butler while he is still healthy. This scene is a classic male-female clash in which Swank doesn’t know what she wants, won’t make decisions or sacrifices, and tries make her disappointment in her own lack of accomplishment be her man’s fault. That it’s Hilary Swank in sexy underwear giving the scolding of course helps, but her husband’s restraint in the face of her barrage of crazy-making is saintly. The dialog is dead on. Men could watch this movie as a guide to surviving an unwinnable argument with an insecure, critical woman.
After he dies, the widow is surprised to find out her husband had prepared a series of letters to be delivered posthumously to guide his grieving wife in her life without him. Each letter sends her on a new adventure and is signed, “P.S. I Love You”.
The widow’s best friends, Lisa Kudrow and Gina Gershon, and her mother Kathy Bates, rightly worry that the dead husband’s letters will keep her tied to the past. But, Swank’s character is such an under-performer that the letters save her by providing the motivation to live her own life.
The omniscient letters are a clever story device that strain but don’t shatter believability. The many subplots amongst the supporting characters are a distraction. Swank portrays strength, but not ambition. Her character is so passive that it effects her ability to be the hero of the movie.
A word about casting… “My wife and daughter are huge ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ fans, so while I was in the middle of casting, my wife sat me down and told me I had to watch these three episodes of the show,” says director Richard LaGravenese. “And there’s Jeffrey Dean Morgan playing Denny, who I’d been hearing about all over the place. I thought he was great, and he looked perfect for the part, so we cast him as William.”
Morgan proved in ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ that nobody can play the romantic dying victim better, and I expected him in the role of the dying husband. Instead, Morgan doesn’t appear until much later in the film and is underutilized. The dying husband is Gerard Butler, who you’re not likely recognize as the Spartan king from ‘300’.
In real life, Swank has lost multiple family members to cancer. Swank is a cancer survivor spokesperson for Pantene Beautiful Lengths, encouraging people to donate their hair to be made into wigs for women who’ve lost their hair to cancer. “I think ‘P.S. I Love You’ reminds us to hold the ones we love close and never to take them for granted because you never know what’s going to happen tomorrow,” says Swank. “It’s also about the power of friendship and of family…and maybe not taking life so seriously.”
A charming comedy romance. Shot in New York and Ireland.
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: December 21st, 2007
Rating: PG-13 for sexual references and brief nudity
Robin Rowe is a journalist for Hollywood Today and a partner in MovieEditor.com.