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P.S. I Love You

Warner Bros. // PG-13 // May 6, 2008
List Price: $28.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Thomas Spurlin | posted May 19, 2008 | E-mail the Author
Dear DVDTalk Reader,

By the time you will have read this, you may have seen P.S. I Love You, the romantic comedy from Freedom Writers' director Richard LeGravenese, sitting in your new release section at any assortment of local retailers.

It's a tale of unabashed romance, toothsweet giddiness, and completely unbelievable theatrics that stars Million Dollar Baby and 300 powerhouses Hilary Swank and Gerard Butler. Even considering its kinked filmmaking contrivances, P.S. I Love You makes these sacrifices with its reflective, purposeful heart in the right place. I can tell you though, in confidence as an admirer of some rather uneven romantic films, that you've got to prepare for some screeching inconsistencies in order to find sparks of enjoyment through its hit-and-miss, high notes only charm.

The Film:

P.S. I Love You, adapted from the popular romance novel from author Cecelia Ahern, hits the ground running with this demeanor and never looks back. It starts with a characteristically incensed argument featuring married couple Holly (Hilary Swank, Boy's Don't Cry) and Gerry (Gerard Butler, The Phantom of the Opera) as they come home from a dinner outing in which he lets his tongue slip in front of her mother. It's within these few starting moments that the awkwardness of these radiant stars really start to show in their respective roles; Swank and Butler both plunge in respectfully, but they just carry themselves in such a different manner as actors than their respective quirky characters. This makes their rapport feel uncomfortable.

You start to indulge in their character's exchanges as they argue, though, featuring Holly's uptight cynicism and concern bouncing back and forth with Gerry's casual Irish gruffness and lyric sense of humor. This argument makes their relationship feel alive in an "under construction" kind of way, though its uppity perfect resolution kills its legitimacy. LeGravenese's film is chock full of such moments that become increasingly far-fetched as P.S. I Love You progresses.

When her other half passes on via a medical condition, Holly starts to receive an assortment of letters and packages that a premeditative Gerry intricately plotted out before his death. Following her agoraphobic grief that begins to even out near the center of the film, Holly painfully follows along with his directive letters to a wide assortment of places that span from a karaoke bar down the street all the way to Ireland. Her sister (Gina Gershon, Bound) and best friend (Lisa Kudrow, Romy and Michele's High School Reunion) see what Gerry is trying to do and trot along with his postmortem courting, which is exactly the reactions that the film wants you to hope for. Her mother (Kathy Bates, Fried Green Tomatoes), the one made out to be the stubborn cynic of the crowd, thinks it's purely a near-masochistic exercise in latching onto the past.

I agree with Holly's mother, for the most part, in that this stretching of Gerry's presence long after his death in almost conversation-like letters just isn't a healthy way to either remember or let go of someone. P.S. I Love You turns its back heartily on that idea, though, and continues to feed off its romantically fluttering core for effectiveness' sake. It tries really hard to be a jubilant, thoughtful insight into death and love after losing the light of your life. I enjoy humorous stories with that kind of inward wisdom, like Sam Mendes' American Beauty, or even Cameron Crowe's Elizabethtown; however, there's such an easy, unfathomable end to every situation and conversation within P.S. I Love You that it makes the narrative flat-out unrealistic and detached from reason.

Something to bear in mind, however, is that P.S. I Love You flows at a dram-rom-com's pace, not with dramatic integrity as its central purpose. This clears up the drab mood at several points, such as during Gerry's wake when the custom-made cubic urn Holly crafted for him monolithically plays host to shot glasses in an Irish bar. It has several of such moments where it displays a certain comedic clarity that might've pulled it from the gutters of sappy agenda-plagued cinema, but instead P.S. I Love You foibles with weak scripting and sub-par, indistinguishable performances to such a degree that some, including myself, will be begging for mercy from its saccharine provocation. It's an eccentric tonal mosaic that has the outline of the picture it's trying to create and the emotional palette to fill in the center, yet it doesn't know what the product should shape up to be as a whole.

At least it has fun in the process, though. Though the portrayals from Lisa Kudrow and Kathy Bates feel more like reincarnations of characters from their past, just with different clothes on, their personas and eccentricities as they deliver lines still give us some fun situational humor to latch onto during the absurdity. Both Kudrow and Bates' facial demeanors and gestures that arise become some of the little sparks that you keep an eye out for as you search for a flickering light through this large, fluffy cloud of sentimentality. But yes, even though subtlety isn't one of P.S. I Love You's traits, it still knows what its trying to do and pushes forward diligently. This is a film for those who enjoy looking past some serious cinematic warts to find an oversweet, albeit heartwarming, core.

The DVD:

P.S. I Love You comes from Warner Bros. in a standard keepcase presentation with fairly generic coverart. The disc itself is a flipper with widescreen on one side and fullscreen adorning the back.

The Video:

One thing I can say for P.S. I Love You is that it captures detail and color exceedingly well with its cinematography. Presented in its theatrical 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation, though it looks a hair closer to 1.78-80.1, it looks spectacularly clean and vibrant. The image seems a little dark in patches, but overall both the color replication and level of detail are shimmering successes. Once you look at some stark greens and other shades, like in the shots in Ireland, the colors can look a tad unsaturated. However, the level of visual strength never faltered from the film's tone. It's a very strong transfer, which definitely helps the movie-watching experience as you indulge in the fanciful storyline.

The Audio:

In typical comedic fashion, most of the activity stays to the front of P.S. I Love You's Dolby 5.1 surround audio track. Nothing really distinguishes it from a crowd of mediocrity, especially the level of surrounds. Vocal strength is generally clean and quite audible, while all the little bits of musical accompaniment sounded just fine. It's decent and serves its purpose for the film, but isn't anything to write home about. Language tracks are also available in French and Spanish, while English SDH, Spanish, and French subtitles are also available.

The Extras:

A Conversation with Cecilia Ahern:
An introductory piece on the author of the book is featured here, describing Cecilia Ahern's path of creativity and popularity with the book. She takes some time to describe her experience with working on the set, as well as stepping away from the camera to let the other crew members discuss their experiences with her.

Music Video - "Same Mistake" By James Blunt:
Just as expected, this little bit features spliced -together pieces from the film as a James Blunt song plays through the speakers.

The Name of the Game is Snaps:
Several people in the film play a game called snaps. It's a rather goofy game in the film, but comes off even goofier with this mock instructional video on how to play. It's pretty much worthless, as it doesn't even feature a single person from the film in any extra material.

Additional Scenes:
To say it bluntly, P.S. I Love You is too long already - and these extra scenes would've dragged it along to painstaking levels. The film itself could've used a little workin the editing room as is, but these clips from the film are all very, very wise. There's a scene in particular that takes place in a independent theater that is pretty painful to watch.


Final Thoughts:

P.S. I Love You is a full-on, no-bones-about-it chick flick to the highest accord. It's a shame that the performances mix together about as poorly as water and oil because, with a dialed-down level of giddiness within its loopy script and a little tinkering with the acting, P.S. I Love You could've had more of a universal appeal. Instead, it only fills a niche gap in a mildly entertaining and unbearably sweet way that's best suited for a Rental.

Thomas Spurlin, Staff Reviewer -- DVDTalk Reviews | Personal Blog/Site
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