Stupid me. I saw one trailer for “PS, I Love You” starring Hilary Swank, Lisa Kudrow, and Kathy Bates, noted the release date (December 21), and thought to myself, “Ooh, yay! A romantic comedy for the holidays.” I didn’t bother to read the reviews that came out on Friday morning. I just went to the first showing of the day.
Well, romantic comedy this movie is not.
If I’d done my homework, I would have known that “PS, I Love You,” based on the novel by Cecelia Ahern (which I obviously have not read), is really a love story awash in grief. Young Holly (Swank) loses her Irish husband Gerry to a brain tumor within the first 10 minutes of the story–after audiences get a brief glimpse into their passionate, if not a bit strained, marriage. The thing is, I knew that Holly was a widow before I entered the theater. But I somehow thought that this story would be about her falling in love again, perhaps with Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Denny from “Grey’s Anatomy”), who features prominently in the trailers but who, it turns out, only makes a cameo in the film.
This story is not about falling in love again. It is about grieving. Gerry, Holly’s former husband, first love, true love, haunts the film throughout, and not only in Holly’s dreams and imagination. Before his death Gerry arranged for his afterlife in more ways than one, not only by planning his own funeral, but by setting up a series of letters and adventures for Holly after his death, supposedly to help her move on with her life. And while touching at moments, these letters stymie not only Holly’s capacity to truly heal, but the audience’s ability to find any lasting joy in the film.
This is a film about hanging on to grief, to loss, to a love that was wonderful in life and now is unimaginably painful in death. It is also a film about wishful thinking, and anyone who has lost a dear one in life will be able to appreciate this dimension.
So it’s not all that bad, I suppose, if you’re prepared. But be warned: the pseudo-love interest (who turns out not to be a love interest) for Holly is embodied in the character of Daniel Connelly, played by Harry Connick Jr. I think Daniel is meant to be a quirky kind of guy, but unfortunately, Connick can’t play quirky. He turns quirky into creepy. And then he has that whole serial killer role movie past that I couldn’t get out of my mind, which did not help. He’s a disaster of a love interest for Holly–terrible casting.
Some reviewers have praised this film as a “weepie,” a film you go to in order to get a good cry. The only thing I was crying about at the end of the movie was how long it lasted, and how the story never got beyond death, and the way that Gerry haunts Holly until the very last moment, and presumably, beyond.