Thursday, June 05, 2008

P.S. I Love You

2007, US, directed by Richard LaGravenese

This was much better than I expected: despite an excess of paddywhackery - most notably in the form of Gerard Butler's over-the-top Irishman-in-New-York, Gerry (he's even referred to as a leprechaun, for goodness' sake), it's a much more successful concoction than a film like Catch and Release, with which it shares some vague thematic similarities, or other recent rom-coms like 27 Dresses (though this film emphasizes the romance more than the comedy for the most part). It also has an excellent soundtrack that actually seems coherent rather than just a mishmash designed to sell CDs.

That said, there aren't too many innovations: the film follows the conventional formula of surrounding the leads with often oddball sidekicks, though here the female support is rather weak (or weakly written: Gina Gershon and Lisa Kudrow are able performers in other gigs). Harry Connick, Jr does, nonetheless, makes the most of a character with dreadful social skills, and grabs many of the best lines. However, Hilary Swank makes the film, giving it some bite in her early scenes with Butler, which have a surprisingly realistic feel, and later performs a nice acting transformation in flashbacks to a much younger version of herself.

The pre-credit sequence is especially well handled, with the two leads capturing the sense of two characters who know each other well and who, for all they share with one another, are also adept at pushing each other's buttons; they even enjoy that process just a little, though we're far from nastier The Break-Up territory here. It's unfortunate that the film isn't capable of returning to that somewhat more inventive territory again: the sequence is also a clever illustration of the couple's domestic routines, which are sketched in almost invisibly during their confrontation.

The film is based on Cecelia Ahern's successful novel (with the money she made, could she not have helped her Da out a bit?), with the original Irish setting changed to give it a transatlantic flavour, and the transformation seems to me to play up Gerry's green roots, making him much more of a cipher than his wife; even where you think he might have more of a chance to establish himself as an independent character, such as in the flashbacks, he remains something of a riddle, and eventually becomes a little grating. I couldn't help wondering, too, why the filmmakers couldn't have found at least one authentic Irishman to play one of the cute males: I know that Butler and Jeffrey Dean Morgan are considered a bit of all right, but surely one of my fellow countrymen could have provided adequate eye candy?

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States