Depressing in that way only Hollywood can make ‘em, Richard LaGravenese´s P.S. I Love You comes manufactured to forcibly extract tears directly from the ocular cavities of its viewers.
And while this nicely produced tearjerker may resonate with certain members of the audience, the rest of us simply watch it go through the usual manipulative motions, never reaching an emotional connection.
It’s amazing that Kurosawa could make such a touching, life-affirming portrait of a dying man in Ikiru, while all Hollywood can manage to do is wallow in death – no hope offered – for the length of an entire sitcom-level film.
Hilary Swank stars as Holly Kennedy, whose husband Gerry (Gerard Butler, with full Irish brogue) dies from a brain tumor. Not that we get any scenes of his battle with cancer – no, that might be too depressing, in a kind of realistic way – he´s just alive pre-credits, dead after, with little explanation.
In any event, he was apparently able to make plans for his wife to follow after his demise, which Swank now receives in the form of letters culminating in the titular phrase. So, as a way to get over the death of her beloved husband, she now follows his letters – leading her to sing karaoke and take a trip to Ireland – while reliving painful memories.
It’s the chick-flick equivalent of Saw IV, I guess, in which the now-dead Jigsaw had managed to leave inventive death traps for his unsuspecting victims; here, however, it’s the audience that is tortured – and the devices are far less imaginative.
Swank is badly miscast as the grieving widow (do we really need to see the strong-willed heroine of Million Dollar Baby, Boys Don´t Cry, and – of course – The Next Karate Kid wallow in misery for two hours?); co-stars Lisa Kudrow and Gina Gershon fare better while delivering the standard rom-com relief.
Butler is given little to do but ooze sexual charisma (despite being dead for most of the movie); his paper-thin, too-good-to-be-true character, however, completely fails to generate the kind of emotional resonance the film needs to succeed.
Pic does, however, feature two terrific performances in smallish, underwritten roles: Harry Connick Jr. as a socially-challenged friend and singer-songwriter Nellie McKay (in her film debut) in a brief but showy part as Holly´s eccentric sister.