December 27, 2007

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P.S. I Love You (PG-13)
Hilary Swank goofballs her way around New York and Ireland at the request of her dead husband (through pre-mortem written letters) in P.S. I Love You, a movie whose sole redeeming feature is the few seconds where we get to hear Nellie McKay sing the song by Johnny Mercer which shares the film’s name.

I’m sure you can buy the single online and thus save yourself the need of sitting through the movie.

Holly (Hilary Swank) and Gerry (an extremely unSpartan Gerard Butler) are a married couple who argue about their poverty, their lack of a child and each other’s lack of career direction in their small but utterly charming New York City apartment. Holly wants children but doesn’t feel they have enough room or money and is all crazy with envy of the people she shows around fancy apartments in her hated job as a real estate agent (one of many professions she’s tried on and then discarded over the past few years). They fight, they slam doors, they kiss and make up, end scene.

A year or so later, we find Holly dressed in black and attending Gerry’s funeral. Poor Gerry — his jolly Irish ways couldn’t keep him from dying. Luckily, he died of a brain tumor, thus giving him time to plot out a complicated series of letters from him to Holly to help ease her into life without him. His letters include instructions — go sing karaoke, go out and get drunk — and one even comes with tickets for Holly and her pals Denise (Lisa Kudrow) and Sharon (Gina Gershon) to go to Ireland, which is apparently where Holly and Gerry met. While Holly goes through all the stages of grief, she also gets to meet Gerry’s friends and family, contemplate post-Gerry romance and even consider a new career.

Nellie McKay, the Doris Day-voiced singer whose songs sound like cupcakes but are actually as tart as gin gimlets, plays Holly’s strange flighty sister who appears in only a handful of scenes but nonetheless dominates every moment of her screen time with her oddness. With her vintage clothes and retro hair, she seems exactly like the sort of girl made for a movie’s romantic adventure. Pair her with Lisa Kudrow, who is similar here to the sharp-tongued character she played in The Opposite of Sex but without the bitterness or the self-pity, and you’ve got the makings of a wacky buddy picture full of sarcasm and torch song ballads.

But back in P.S. I Love You, it’s all “luck o’ the Irish” cutesiness and extremely unconvincing ditzy pathos from Swank. She simply doesn’t work as a lovesick widow or a lovedrunk American tourist. (In fact, the flashbacks to Holly and Gerry’s early days are particularly jarring because there is nothing at all girlish about Swank, who seems to be playing 19 years old like it’s 13.) Swank needs to leave this kind of goofiness to Jennifer Garner (who also isn’t all that good at it but at least appears to enjoy it more) and go back to playing the kind of oddballs that win her Oscars. C-

Rated PG-13 for sexual references and brief nudity. Directed by Richard LaGravenese and written by LaGravenese and Steven Rogers (from a book by Cecelia Ahern), P.S. I Love You is two hours and six minutes long and is distributed by Warner Bros.