‘P.S. I Love You’ a treacly take on love after death | NevadaAppeal.com

‘P.S. I Love You’ a treacly take on love after death

CHRISTY LEMIRE
AP Movie Critic

You can sort of see the allure “P.S. I Love You” might have held for Hilary Swank.

It offers her a rare opportunity to play a romantic comedy heroine, though it also has its heavy moments to demonstrate her dramatic range. After making her name (and winning Academy Awards) for tough-girl roles in “Boys Don’t Cry” and “Million Dollar Baby,” here she gets to show off her lean, toned body in bras, panties and bustiers, and the clotheshorse in Swank gets to revel in a wardrobe of stylish, Jackie-O inspired outfits.

Instead, “P.S. I Love You” is as treacly as the title would suggest.

This totally contrived pile of uberschmaltz, directed by Richard LaGravenese and based on a novel by Irish writer Cecelia Ahern, finds Swank’s Holly Kennedy widowed at 29 when her husband dies of a brain tumor. But somehow in his waning state, Gerry (Gerard Butler) was lucid enough to construct for her an elaborate spiritual scavenger hunt, arranging to have letters sent to her for a year after his death, each signed ” you guessed it ” “P.S. I Love You.”

(We’ll give you a moment to vomit, then we can resume.)

The missives ” which usually arrive by mail but sometimes are hidden inside dry cleaning or a birthday cake when Holly turns 30 ” are meant to remind her of the good in their relationship and guide her to carry on without him. This includes gay-bar hopping, teary-eyed karaoke and a trip to his hometown in Ireland to hook up with someone new ” who happens to look just like him.

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Creepy.

Thing is, even through frequent flashbacks, Holly and Gerry don’t seem all that well-suited for each other. It goes beyond opposites attracting; they’re not even happy together. She’s uptight and materialistic, as evidenced by her shoe obsession. He’s wacky and spontaneous, hence he likes to striptease for her in boxer shorts and suspenders. When they fight at the film’s start about having a baby in their cramped Lower East Side apartment, it’s rapid-fire and shrill, like a poor man’s “Barefoot in the Park.”

Then when Gerry dies abruptly soon afterward ” the movie just drops us into his wake at a pub, no warning ” Holly is understandably devastated, but even her grief feels false. (LaGravenese, who also directed Swank in “Freedom Writers,” adapted the screenplay with Steven Rogers, who previously co-wrote “Kate & Leopold” and “Stepmom”). She mopes around the house for weeks in Gerry’s clothes, watching old movies and singing along with Judy Garland performances. It’s too camp and self-conscious.

Right on cue, the letters force her out of the house. Kathy Bates, as the mother who never approved of Gerry, is wasted in a few scenes, and Gina Gershon and Lisa Kudrow have barely more to do as the obligatory smart-alecky best friends. Harry Connick Jr. fares far worse as the bartender with no internal censor who clumsily hits on Holly over and over.

Not that such a trifle deserves this kind of serious analysis, but it’s almost offensive if you stop and think about it: the idea that Holly needs a man to tell her how best to live her life, even from the grave, as if she were too stupid and spineless to find her own strength and figure it out for herself. For a story and a movie that purport themselves to be female-friendly, this concept is anything but.

Guys, however, who loved Butler as the fierce King Leonidas in the testosterone-charged “300,” will probably never be able to forgive him for this. And they shouldn’t. Tonight, we all dine in hell.

“P.S. I Love You,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release, is rated PG-13 for sexual references and brief nudity. Running time: 126 minutes. One and a half stars out of four.