Sunday, December 02, 2007

Movie Review: 'P.S. I Love You'

The best description I can give to my experience watching P.S. I Love You is being stuck in an elevator for two hours with the most mundane of music being piped incessantly into my surroundings and an unnerving feeling that the walls are encroaching on me. The film is a slow progression of a senseless story with the most unappealing collection of characters on screen since ‘Batman and Robin’. Hilary Swank and Gerard Butler lead the cast, playing a struggling married couple, Holly and Jerry. She is a histrionic New Yorker, he a caricatured Irish man brandishing a guitar and an ‘Oirish’ turn of phrase at every opportunity. The story follows Holly’s grieving in the wake of Jerry’s death. Left a series of letters by her departed husband, Holly follows the advice contained within – steps set out by Jerry to guide her through her life without him.

Based on the bestselling debut novel by Cecilia Ahern, this movie, like the source material, is obviously designed with a specific target audience in mind and needs to be judged within this context. Nevertheless, while I would willingly accept that there may be familiar conventions and unchallenging progressions at play, an audience should at the very least expect to be entertained. Instead the film is an all-out assault on the viewer’s intelligence. The story is a paint-by-numbers patchwork of clichés so overused that there is never any doubt as to how events will be resolved, right down to the message in the final letter. The characters live in a world of acerbic sitcom one-liners and romantic hyperbole where marriage and children are the only possible aspirations any woman could have. Grieving is managed by watching Bette Davis movies, jobs are randomly discarded and new love interests are introduced at your spouse’s wake. Swank may be a double Oscar winner but from her opening line, the character she is laden with is only deserving of an award for immaturity. Male characters are wafer thin, with Harry Connick Jr. so poorly drawn he borders on schizophrenic. Gerard Butler may as well be on a box of ‘Lucky Charms’ he is so infuriatingly animated.

The attempts at weightiness are feeble. Ideas such as being true to oneself, the impact of an absent father and the grieving process never ring through – due to both poor plotting and a lack of sincerity about the whole exercise. Events bring Holly and her friends on a trip to Ireland to reminisce on the couple’s first meeting. The segment begins with standard lackluster aerial shots of the countryside – a perfect metaphor for the mediocre filmmaking on display. ‘Oirish’ stereotypes would have been a welcome distraction here and while there are some, there is still no escaping the insipid heroine and her friends who make the prospect of a holiday with rabid hyenas look attractive. The sequence serves as nothing more than filler for a poorly constructed plot. The story lumbers along, riddled with embarrassing scenes so that it becomes a question of waiting for the next set-up to wince at. The story returns to New York dragging the viewer through an endurance test of a conclusion with the final fade to black being the single positive attribute of this film.

The novelty of having a high profile film partly set in Ireland as well as Ahern’s family connections means this movie will be a talking-point come Christmas. Unfortunately for all those curious enough to visit a cinema, the film never reaches above the level of a poor Leaving Cert essay based on an idea stolen from a Mills and Boon novel, ultimately serving testament to the ‘quality’ of female lead vehicles coming out of Hollywood.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have just seen it and couldn't agree more. You've got it spot on, from the cringey (terribly scripted) first scene to the lame last one.

Like the poorly written book, this is a cheap one trick shot that pulls at your tear ducts and nothing else.

Anonymous said...

i have only seen the trailers and based on that alone, i too feel that this movie sucks. my husband passed away on december 18th, and the last year has not been a walk in the park. the heartache and saddeness still lingers. a movie with these standard cliches is a slap in the face to those who have lived thru the real deal. thank, gz

boppaju said...

so sad, so cynical - don't we live enough 'realism'? This movie made me laugh and cry, resonated with my feelings over an 'absent father', and how that has played out in my adult relationships, brought back fantastic memories of Ireland (couldn't do them justice, but evoked great ones anyway), gave me hope for a future after a bleak, painful year - so what if it's cliched? It lifted me - I loved it!

asphodelia Norwich uk said...

I have just watched the movie and found it of poor quality. As I watched it, I wondered if the author of the book/script had ever lost someone dear to them. The answer is obviously not. This movie was trite, banal and as immature as the main character. The fact that was written when Ahern was 21 explains a lot. Stef

Anonymous said...

You are terribly heartless... the book is extremely well written, adorable and cute. While Hilary Swank may not have been the best casting choice, the boys are deliciously yummy and are all phenominal actors.

Not to mention... James Blunt?! C'mon now the music was great!

Anonymous said...

I'm seeing the movie on the 21st...but I am going mainly to see the gorgeous Gerard Butler...I have read reviews by non-critics, and they loved the movie. Audience feedback at the screenings was wonderful, too. And, by the way, the name of Gerard Butler's character is "Gerry"..not with a "j".So often critics can't see what the audience's eyes...This should be a blockbuster, in spite of the negative criticisms here. I can't wait to see it, and ...HIM>

CK said...

Movies are absolutely a personal experience so I appreciate everyones subjective opinion. However, I really don't feel mine was a heartless interpretation - it was my impression as a fan of movies.

I don't believe anyone sets out to make a bad movie. Moreover I feel that audiences are entitled to expect more intelligent and in-depth entertainment.

No aspect of this movie impressed me. In my opinion it fails as a treatment of human experiences and as a piece of entertainment.

Anonymous said...

OMFG U PPL SUX!!!!
i am doing this movie as a drama report and from what i hav read and seen this is going to be the best romance since the titanac!
so instead of sayin things that r mostlikly untrue go c the movie and stop critisizing it

--thanxx--

CK said...

My review describes my experience sitting in a cinema watching the film - I have seen it and would not pass comment on a movie without seeing it.

queenbangied said...

Read the book years ago...LOVED it. Saw the movie last night...VERY dissappointed! It was totally different: untrue to life scenes and i agree Hilary Swank may not have been the right choice for her role although i did like Kathy Bates. I'd rather read the book all over again.

Anonymous said...

i have finally seen a good cliche romance movie that has not come about in a while. I love the fantasy of these sought of movies, it's good for the human spirit, we live in a harsh society of criticism and realism. To make bitter and nasty comments over a movie is quite sad. There are very few romantic movies that are not surrounded with cliches, so if you are not a fan don't watch them. People who have lost a loved one how great would it be if you just ley your mind open to the posibility that they could be right where you are, when you need them most, you should never be angry or bitter about the love of your life passing, there is nothing wrong with acknowledging their spirit. Bless everyone who has a romantic soul

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with the comment above mine... d:o)...you couldn't be more right with the statement that you've posted. Come on! It's a movie! Not real life! But, just possibly, there is a person who has lived this story. And, what a sweet and lovely story it is. If not, it's even greater that there's a human being who thought of such a loving story. For a romance film, it was nicely directed. I cried...because of how much happiness it brought to my world. Learning that a relationship could even reach being that powerful, is mind boggling! Be openminded, cherish what you have, or had! Consume the power of life and death. It's beautiful...and for those of you who haven't seen the movie and you share a liking of all things because liking just one thing isn't enough, I highly recommend this movie! It will make your perspective on life and love stronger...

Anonymous said...

I read this book a couple of years ago... what an amazing read!Something most people can relate to. Watched the movie last night and really enjoyed it... sometimes when you have read a novel then see the movie you can feel very disapointed...not this time!!

Anonymous said...

i have read the book and seen the film and they are good the book made me cry i think the person who reviewed th film must have been a man in the film there was laughter and sadness bye X

Anonymous said...

You people are all wrong this movie was a very moving film that has a mixture of love and comedy.

Anonymous said...

I have read the novel by Cecelia Ahern and thoroughly enjoyed it, an it became addictive to read on. The film was exactly what i expected with a bit of a twist, i feel that your review is slightly heartless. I must admit that the book was definately a stronger story, but the film definately made me laugh, and of course brought a tear to my eye.

Anonymous said...

For the lady whose husband passed away on December 18th-- I am so sorry for your loss, but please by all means go see the movie; it by no means trivialises the pain you must be going through, rather Holly feels his loss intimately and in every aspect of her life, far beyond 'Bette Davis movies'. Furthermore, it should not be taken as an insult to womanhood - that's a bit heretically femenist! - as you must remember that Holly was a 19 year old virgin when she married him, and thus of course she was going to feel his absence keenly, and not really know what to do with herself.
Lastly, opposites most certainly do attract. The Irish men and are their laidbackness clearly see something vulnerable and appealing about Holly's insecurity and inner warmth.
I am surprised to read bad reviews as i just went and the cinema was packed like I have never seen, and the entire cinema sobbed from start to finish. I adore reviewing films and in short, this is the best romantic film I have seen in years. Period.

Kate said...

Read the book. Saw the movie. Loved them both. I was alternately laughing and crying during the movie. The only casting question I had was Harry Connick, Jr. The rest of the casting was well done especially Gerard Butler. He has an appeal as an attractive, sexy man with a twinkle in his eye. Hopefully the critics will soon start to see what his fans see - an exceptionally good actor who doesn't take himself too seriously and who isn't afraid to take on diverse roles. I will go to see the movie again, and I am an intelligent, educated woman who enjoys a good romance!

Anonymous said...

For those of you that have not seen the movie you shouldn't judge. I loved this movie. Although the idea of a dead husband sending you letters is a bit creepy, Swank's character is completely relatable as a griever. She doesn't wake up one day and feel better. The whole movie as a about the grieving process and trying to move on. I laughed and cried through the whole thing.

chubby said...

I watched this film last night and i totally disagree with the review. I think that a film should be enjoyed for what it is and not the literature or structure or whatever of it...you either liked what you saw or you didn't!? a film shouldn't be judged on "clichés" or "realism" ...it's only a film!! I'm not going to go into technicals about this film because, well 1. I would probably make a fool out of myself and 2. A film shouldn't be examined on technical stuff..only on whether you enjoyed it or not!
But, each to their own i guess. I absolutly loved it though!

chubby said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I have read the book and then yesterday I watched the movie. Is it full of clichés? Yes, but most of them come from Cecelia Ahern rather than Richard Lagravanese, the movie I think it’s better than the book because of the actors, the music and the exterior locations.

Hillary Swank was a rather unusual widow, with a penchant for down right stupid comments (not good for a realtor) meanness (think how she holds the fall from stage over Gerry) and carelessness (think the boat scene and the infamous bed in war with her toe) along with her friends she makes a trio of incapable and very nosy women, very well soothed with the age of the original writer little miss Cecelia Ahern age 21 when published.

Gerry I think was the ideal hubby, tender, understanding, caring and so incredibly romantic. The idea of the letters was to get her over the pain, I can imagine the huge burden of knowing Holly and everybody else would be devastated with his untimely departure. So he prepared a mean to get everybody distracted until the pain had dulled. I love Gerry, to me; Gerard Butler deserves great praises for this utterly romantic performance. And he’s a mildly good singer too, this Irish treat I’m afraid is a cultural stereotype, but never the less true.

One scene from the book, that I thought was the best tear jerker ever written, wasn’t portrayed, the one at the travel agency, the ones who have read the book know what I mean. That I think was a big mistake on the producing side. But everything else was fine.

I cry often during dramatic movies, say Titanic, Stepmon and The notebook, all which I’ve found worthy of rivers of tears. I don’t hold P.s. I love you to the dramatic standards of those movies, all abundantly awarded but rather to the amount of tears shed during the movie, which in my case was near endless, I love my hubby to death, and the thought of him dying makes me cry non-stop I’m sure this is the reason why it was released to close to Valentine’s day.

In a nutshell, this movie is very much a chick flick, I love it, most married women (in love with their husbands) will adore it, and probably even hug their significant others through the night after seeing this movie, I know I did. So ladies, bring a Kleenex box and guys bring a strong shoulder to cry on.

Vicky (fanfic writer at fanfiction.net aka the mean kitten)

Anonymous said...

I went to see P.S. i love you a couple of days ago and thought it was a briliant film - the best i have seen in a while... everytime i burst into tears a funny bit would come along and i'd crack up laughing and then i'd burst into tears again when another letter came along.. i haven't cried so much at a film since Titanic. I thought Hillary swank played Holly very well and i loved the 'oirish' men. in fact now have a new love for the 'oirish!' definintely will be buying when it comes out on DVD - if you haven't seen it yet - make sure you take tissues - or you'll end up coming out of the cinema with mascara running down your cheeks - not a good look!!!

Anonymous said...

Thought I'd share this with everyone because this is the 10th and sweetest letter! The one that Holly reads aloud in the Yankee Stadium. I've been looking all around for it, just found it and I know that I'm not the only human being on earth wanting it...so here it is:

"Dear Holly,
I don't have much time. I don't mean literally. I mean, you're out buying an ice cream and you'll be home soon. But I have a feeling this is the last letter, because there's only one thing left to tell you. It isn't to go down memory lane or make you buy a lamp, because you can take care of yourself without any help from me. It's to tell you how much you move me, how you changed me. You made me a man, by loving me Holly, and for that, I am eternally grateful, literally. If you can promise me anything, promise me that whenever you're sad, or unsure, or you lose complete faith, that you'll try and see yourself through my eyes. Thank you for the honor of being my wife. I'm a man with no regrets. How lucky am I? You made my life, Holly, and I'm just one chapter in yours; there'll be more, I promise. So here it comes, the big one: Don't be afraid to fall in love again. Watch out for that signal, when life as you know it ends.

P.S. I will always love you"