Review: Grief encounters in ‘P.S.’

A grief-shattered widow learns to embrace life again, thanks to a series of tasks delineated by her late husband in letters he wrote while dying, in “P.S. I Love You,” a romantic dramedy that proves as hackneyed as that setup suggests. The gimmick eclipses the human ingredient here, and there isn’t enough charm or credibility in this movie to allow you to believe.

Based on Cecelia Ahern’s bestseller, and directed and cowritten by Richard LaGravenese, the film is a one-hankie fairy tale that makes “Ghost” look profound. Hilary Swank plays Holly, a shoe-loving Manhattanite who loses her fun-loving Irish husband, Gerry (Gerard Butler), to a brain tumor and sinks into a funk. The colorful supporting characters — man-hunting friend Denise (Lisa Kudrow) and cynical pal Sharon (Gina Gershon), among them — worry.

Then a birthday cake arrives, accompanied by a tape recording from the deceased Gerry. The tape states that letters will follow.

When alive, Gerry wrote the letters to help Holly overcome his death. Each contains an assignment, which Holly performs. She buys a disco dress, visits a karaoke joint and vacations in Ireland.

Holly also considers two romantic options: a too-frank bartender (Harry Connick Jr.) and a hunky pub singer (Jeffrey Dean Morgan).

Good films can certainly be made about grief-sick women (“Truly Madly Deeply” and “Under the Sand,” for example), but this one’s hokum.

LaGravenese, whose “Living Out Loud” and “Freedom Writers” were slightly above-average blends of affecting human drama and phony formula, delivers primarily the latter this time. Blame foremost the screenplay, cowritten with Steven Rogers (“Stepmom”).

Even if you accept that capable, modern Holly needs not only a husband, but a dead one, for guidance, it’s hard to buy this silly story as it unfolds over a lengthy 126 minutes. Additionally, by overconcentrating on the gimmick, LaGravenese fails to focus on the genuine emotion that the central relationship must convey if we are to feel the magnitude of Holly’s loss. With Butler’s Gerry appearing mostly in flashback ghost form and Swank’s heroine presented largely as a Holly-Gotritely presence, little chance exists for such passion to occur.

Among the cast, Kathy Bates, playing Holly’s disapproving but caring mother, is alone in being able to transcend the shallowness, although Swank doesn’t do badly. Displaying her trademark ability to seem deserving, and giving her all, she holds your interest. But in the end, she’s left merely impressively striving.

artsentertainmentOther Arts

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Police seized ghost guns and other firearm manufacturing items while executing a warrant in February (Courtesy SFPD)
Ghost guns linked to rise in SF shootings as numbers jump

San Francisco police are seizing an increasingly alarming number of untraceable firearms,… Continue reading

From left, California state Sen. Milton Marks, Sen. Nicholas Petris, Assemblyman John Knox and activists Claire Dedrick, Sylvia McLaughlin and Janet Adams watch Gov. Ronald Reagan sign the bill establishing the Bay Conservation and Development Commission as a permanent agency in 1969. (Courtesy Save The Bay)
Sixty years of Saving San Francisco Bay

Pioneering environmental group was started by three ladies on a mission

Students walk around campus near the Cesar Chavez Student Center at San Francisco State University. (Steven Ho/Special to S.F. Examiner)
California’s massive UC and Cal State systems plan to require COVID-19 vaccinations this fall

Nina Agrawal, Teresa Watanabe, Colleen Shalby Los Angeles Times The University of… Continue reading

Temporary high-occupancy vehicle lanes will be added to sections of state Highway 1 and U.S. Highway 101, including Park Presidio Boulevard, to keep traffic flowing as The City reopens. <ins>(Ekevara Kitpowsong/Special to S.F. Examiner)</ins>
Transit and high-occupancy vehicle lanes coming to some of The City’s busiest streets

Changes intended to improve transit reliability as traffic increases with reopening

Tents filled up a safe camping site in a former parking lot at 180 Jones St. in the Tenderloin in June 2020.<ins> (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
Proposal for major expansion of safe sleeping sites gets cool reception in committee

Supervisor Mandelman calls for creation of more temporary shelter sites to get homeless off streets

Most Read