Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 22, 2008)
Oscar victories can lead to extra money at the box office, but apparently they can’t turn an actor into a big draw. Exhibit “A”: Hilary Swank. Her two Best Actress trophies put her in rarified territory, but she can’t seem to translate the critical respect into popular appeal.
And it’s not like she hasn’t tried. If Swank focused on small “art flicks” like her breakout movie, Boys Don’t Cry, then her box office failures wouldn’t be an issue. However, Swank clearly wants to gain more popular appeal. Why else would she star in lowest common denominator efforts like The Core and The Reaping.
With a gross of $58 million, 2007’s PS I Love You wasn’t a dud, but it did nothing to establish Hilary as America’s Sweetheart. Swank plays Holly, the exceedingly practical and conservative wife of carefree Irishman Gerry (Gerard Butler). They have conflicts related to their current status, as she wants more stability for their lives to go forward and have kids.
They reconcile quickly, because their love is just too darned strong! Alas, their love won’t last due to tragedy. Gerry dies due to a brain tumor and her world goes into uncharted territory since the fastidious Holly has no plan for this scenario. She becomes a sloppy shut-in before a surprise occurs on her 30th birthday. Gerry sends her directions from beyond the grave: he orders her to have fun and tells her she’ll receive further instructions as time progresses. The movie follows all of Holly’s adventures as she deals with her grief and lives up to Gerry’s expectations.
A while back I mentioned to a friend that I thought Swank was pretty hot. Incredulous, he offered a two-word response: “horse face???” Yeah, Swank may have a horse face, but she also has a heck of a body and she can be awfully sexy.
I focus on Swank’s physical charms because those are literally the only charms on display in this tedious, cloying piece of nonsense. Oh, and let me throw “predictable” into the mix as well. You know how when a movie’s secondary character starts talking about all their grand plans for the future, that means they’re doomed? The same concept works here. PS telegraphs Gerry’s fate early, as he talks incessantly about how he’s not going anywhere, they’re forever, blah blah blah.
In other words: better start digging a hole, because he’ll be six feet under before long. This means the movie starts in a predictable manner and it rarely diverges from an easily anticipated series of events. Okay, I’ll admit it takes a left turn or two, but not enough to make it interesting.
It doesn’t help that it appears PS was written by the Chick Flick 2000, a computer program that churns out this XX-chromosome crap. I can enjoy some chick flicks, but they need to be more creative than this warmed-over nonsense. You’ve seen virtually everything here before, and you’ve undoubtedly seen it done in a superior manner.
PS essentially splits into thirds. It throws out sappy romance, weepy emotion and lame comedy. When I say the film divides three ways, though, I don’t mean that each aspect gets its own act. Instead, the film creates an awkward blend of the elements, and often tries to toss all three at us at the same time.
This means we find bizarre sequences like the one at Gerry’s wake. Everyone’s sad, of course (weepy emotion), but other bits appear as well. The bartender hits on Holly (sappy romance) and her aging single friend hits on any potential mates (lame comedy).
In what world does the bartender at a wake hit on the widow? The same one where the widow’s best friend tries to score. I can buy the weepy emotion, and perhaps some form of comedy would’ve worked, but the way the movie presents these elements doesn’t succeed. They just make the flick seem unreal and phony.
That continues through its 126 minutes. And no, that length isn’t a typo. A flick like this should probably clock in around 100 minutes, so the extra length turns PS into a marathon. Granted, 85 minutes of this nonsense would’ve been unpleasant, but more than two hours of it becomes torture.
How did Swank end up in this part? Nothing about her says “chick flick romantic comedy star”. She lacks the lightness and spirit of a Julia Roberts, Reese Witherspoon or someone more appropriate for this kind of piece. Swank never looks comfortable in the part, and after her Karaoke version of Prince’s “Gett Off”, they should revoke at least one of her Oscars.
No one else offers good work either, as they mostly look disheartened to be stuck in this stinker. We get a particularly weird performance from Harry Connick, Jr., as the bartender/potential love interest. The film wants us to see him as blunt in a charming way, but instead, he seems like a mental deficient. I half expected him to start screaming “five minutes to Wapner!”
Half cheesy schmaltz and half sitcom humor, PS I Love You is all terrible. There’s not a real character, situation or emotion in the whole thing. Cloying, cutesy and genuinely annoying, it gives chick flicks a bad name.