Gerard Butler and Hilary Swank in P.S.: I Love You
Gerard Butler and Hilary Swank in P.S.: I Love You
Gerard Butler Hilary Swank
Gerard Butler and Hilary Swank
Gerard Butler and Hilary Swank in P.S.: I Love You
Gerard Butler and Hilary Swank in P.S.: I Love You
Gerard Butler and Hilary Swank
Gerard Butler and Hilary Swank


Best Romance, 2007 - 4 Stars

Discovering What Women Want

I think it's time I listed a good love story. It's been awhile, and P.S.: I Love You is a good love story.

I know, it's a chick flick. Well, it's a chick flick that has something to offer guys. Gerard Butler (300) is not exactly your soap-opera-idol type, nor is Hilary Swank (Million Dollar Baby). It's an interesting match, and makes for enjoyable interaction, both playful and feisty. Oh, did I mention that one of the couple dies in the first act?

"Oh, Waitsel, you jerk - you just ruined the film for me!" Hold on. I didn't ruin it. That's the main point: Gerry (Gerard Butler) is dying, so he clandestinely writes a stack of letters to his wife, Holly, each ending with, "P.S.: I love you." Then he has someone send them to her one-at-a-time over the course of a year. The letters guide Holly into a new life. And they provide writer-director Richard LaGravenese (Freedom Writers, Horse Whisperer) with a vehicle for doing a ton of flashbacks between Gerry and Holly. It's quite effective.

This is a comedy, and it is very funny. For the most part, Gerry's the funny man and Holly's the straight person. Gerry's a sly Irishman that knows how to wheedle; and Holly's a determined career woman that doesn't have a clue what she wants. As a matter of fact, Gerry asks her point-blank: "What do you want?" It is a poignant question that permeates the film. As Gerry holds his discontented wife in his arms, he says, " I know what I want, 'cause I'm holding it in my hands. Do you?" She doesn't. And it takes Gerry's death for her to figure that out.

Using post mortem love letters to reveal Gerry and Holly's relationship is quite clever. It is fun getting to know this off-the-wall couple: Gerry, an Irish musician, who is the life of the party and brings humor even to his own death; and Holly, the cautious and pensive artist, questioning everything and offering pithy observations. We see that they love each other very much; but, like many of us, Holly doesn't appreciate what she has until he's gone. Fortunately, she gets a second chance with Gerry's letters; and, predictably, over the course of the film, Holly realizes what she is missing and what she now wants.

The journey that Holly takes is painful for her, but fun for us. Most women will find it difficult to hold back the tears. But woven throughout are funny, even hilarious, moments, especially because of Holly's two wacky friends, played by Lisa Kudrow (Friends) and Gina Gershon (Rescue Me). Also, Harry Connick, Jr. plays an utter dork - but a philosophical one; Kathy Bates is Holly's practical mother - but a kind-hearted one; and Jeffrey Dean Morgan becomes Holly's new love interest - all entertaining performances.

Obviously, this isn't the first time the subject of what women want has been breached. Back in 2000, a film by that title, starring Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt, made a half-hearted though entertaining effort at answering that question. Advertising creative Mel Gibson miraculously acquires the ability to read women's minds, which leads him to believe he now knows what they want, and can turn that knowledge to his advantage. However, he is mistaken because - as Holly points out to Harry Connick's character in P.S.: I Love You - even women themselves don't know what they want. So, even if men could read their minds - as many women seem to think we should - that still wouldn't help. No, like women's handbags of generations past, women's minds will always and forever remain mysteries, and rightly so; until God chooses to reveal them, which, I predict, will leave a lot of guys with perplexing looks on their faces and uttering, "You've got to be kidding." I'm sure I will be one of them.

Gerard Butler and Hilary Swank are wonderful in P.S.: I Love You. Butler, who typically switches between action hero (300, Beowulf And Grendel, Tomb Raider: Cradle Of Life) and romantic lead (Phantom Of The Opera, Dear Frankie), has his best romantic role to date in this film. This is also the first time since Phantom that he has been able to show off his musical abilities. And, even though he's from Scotland, he is really Irish, so he has that going for him as well. But, don't expect him to have those abs from 300 - they are long gone.

Swank is a two-time Academy Award-Winning Best Actress: Boys Don't Cry (1999) and Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby (2004). She loves the outdoors (sky diving, river rafting and skiing), which makes her perfect for the scenes in Ireland - a very outdoorsy country and my favorite part of the movie, especially her scenes with Gerry. Swank is honey and vinegar personified - exactly what the good-natured Gerry needs and, between the two of them, the right chemistry for this romantic comedy.

If someone were to ask me, "What do women want," I would say, "I know what they need: a good pair of practical shoes. What they probably want is the most impractical, outrageous pair of designer shoes out there." I would have said that before watching P.S.: I Love You. Now that I've seen it, it is extremely interesting to me that shoes do play an important role in this film, and in Holly's figuring out what she wants. If women ever did discover the joys and comforts of practical footwear, there would be a revolution. Suddenly, they would know exactly what they wanted, and there would no longer be a need for Hollywood, New York or Paris. I don't think that's going to happen in my lifetime.


Waitsel Smith, July 24, 2008

Text © 2008 Waitsel Smith. Image © 2007 Warner Home Video. All Rights Reserved.

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