P.S. I Love You
Directed By: Richard LaGravenese
Starring: Hillary Swank, Gerard Butler, Lisa Kudrow, Harry Connick Jr., Gina Gershon, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Kathy Bates, James Marsters, Nellie McKay
Hillary Swank plays Holly Kennedy, a woman in her late 20s whose life is turned upside down when she loses her husband, Gerry, to cancer. Holly initially falls into a deep depressive funk despite the best efforts of her bar-owning mother, Patricia (Bates), and a close-knit circle of friends. She is surprised on her subsequent birthday to receive a recorded message from Gerry telling her that she will be receiving a series of letters from him over the next several months. Gerry's messages encourage Holly to move forward and challenge herself, and one even directs her to travel on a pre-arranged trip to Gerry's homeland of Ireland with her friends Sharon (Gershon) and Denise (Kudrow). Her mother and friends continuously wonder whether these notes are ultimately helping or hurting Holly's ability to pick up the pieces of her life and move forward.
Director/Screenwriter Richard LaGravenese adapts the first novel from Irish author Cecelia Ahern making certain inevitable decisions (streamlining the number of supporting characters) and some downright questionable ones (changing most of the characters from Irish to Irish-American and moving most of the action to America). While the film does have many of the classic romantic comedy trappings, including the quirky group of friends and the socially awkward romantic interest, its central story of a young grieving widow adds melodramatic elements that make it something of a hybrid "chick flick".
For most of the film's running time, these elements balance nicely preventing the tone of the film from tipping too far in one direction or the other. Unfortunately, an uneven pace and a tendency to trade in certain genre clichés (did we really need another awkward karaoke bar scene) prevents the film from working as well as it could. As an illustration of the film's structural problems, there is a scene near the conclusion that seems to last forever and serves little purpose except to create a misdirection about how one of the film's plot threads is going to resolve itself. While the actual ending is better than what is suggested in this scene, the amount of screen time spent suggesting the false ending dwarfs the amount of time spent delivering the true one, diluting its impact.
The film remains watchable due to its likeable cast of characters. In the lead role, Hilary Swank creates a well- rounded character, generating enough sympathy to maintain audience interest in her progress without giving short shrift to Holly's shortcomings and weaknesses. Other than the film's prologue during which his character is alive, Gerard Butler succeeds at the tricky task of playing Gerry as a voice from beyond the grave modulated by Holly's memory and imagination. The supporting cast is generally strong, although they are sometimes let down a bit by a script that demands that they be a bit too broadly drawn to be believable.
The widescreen presentation on one side of this double-sided single-layered DVD-10 fills the entire 16:9 enhanced frame. The image is acceptable, but appears a bit too soft/filtered for my tastes. I do not know if this was an artifact of the film's cinematography or if it was done to avoid compression artifacts associated with putting the over two hour film plus over a half hour of extras, promos, and PSAs on one single-layered side of a disc. Someone who saw the film in theaters or in high-definition video will have to weigh in on that.
I did not view the full screen presentation for the purpose of this review, but I did spot-check it to ensure that the extras and promos were identical on both sides of the disc and that the softness issues were similar. When doing this, the section of the film I was watching froze and skipped a second or two on more than one occasion. I do not know if this is an authoring issue, a player compatability issue, or an allergic reaction of my player to non-OAR presentations.
The English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is encoded at 384 kbps. It is a not particularly ambitious 5.1 mix that normally keeps things focused on the front hemisphere of the sound field with the rear channels used primarily for score and light ambience. Dubbed French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks are also available.
All extras are presented with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound with video format as indicated below. All except the music video have English and French subtitles.
A Conversation with Cecelia Ahern (16:9 enhanced - 7:31) Based on the title, one would surmise that this featurette would consist of an interview with the author of the film's source novel. It starts out this way, with Ahern talking on camera about subjects including how she came to write the novel, the germination of the idea, how her writing circumstances influenced the characters and stories, and how she got her publishing deal. It then morphs into a fairly standard behind the scenes featurette with comments from Producer Molly Smith talking about her personal connection to the story, Producer Wendy Finerman discussing how the film project came together, screenwriter/director Richard LaGravenese discussing the "Americanization" of the story, and additional comments on the film and characters from actors Gerard Butler and Hilary Swank.
Music Video "Same Mistake" by James Blunt (4:3 letterboxed) features footage of Blunt lip-synching while going through a "day in the life" with a camera seemingly fixed to him and pointed at his face to show him from the shoulders up.
The Name of the Game is Snaps (4:3 full frame video - 4:48) is a jokey featurette that explains how the game mentioned early in the film is played. The actors' hair and costumes and the artificially distressed black and white footage make it look like a vintage 1950s television commercial for a board game - complete with a catchy jingle.
Additional Scenes (4:3 letterboxed to approximately 2.1:1 - 12:35) includes deleted scenes, extended scenes, and bloopers, sometimes mixed together, and without chapter stops including:
- An extended sequence where Holly attends a show at a low rent theater by her free-spirited sister, Ciara. This consists of three parts. The first is a long conversation between Holly and her friends and family in the audience before the show. The second is a bunch of outtake and blooper footage of Nellie McKay as Ciara performing in the show, some parts without sound. The third takes place after the show and features Holly arguing with her mom about working at their family's bar.
- A deleted flashback sequence at the travel agency that shows how a sickly Gerry booked Holly's trip to Ireland with the travel agent. This would have been the only footage in the film showing Gerry while he was ill as well as the only flashback of Gerry that was not from Holly's perspective.
- A deleted scene where Holly gives Gerry's guitar to John (Marsters) and they have a conversation about Gerry. Afterwards, Holly makes amends with Sharon in much the same way as she does in the finished film with Denise at her bridal fitting.
- Anti-Piracy PSA using scenes from Casablanca(4:3 full frame video – 1:00)
- Fools Gold DVD Trailer (:32)
- Mama's Boy Theatrical Trailer (2:29)
- Sisterhood of The Traveling Pants 2 Teaser Trailer (1:20)
The double-sided single layered DVD-10 disc is packaged in a standard Amaray-style case with no inserts. The cover image features giant star heads, but, thankfully, does not look like a two minute Photoshop job. In a case of shameless marketing, the text describing the film on the disc's back cover purposely avoids describing what the film is actually about, making it seem like a more typical light-hearted romantic comedy.
P.S. I Love You is a modestly successful hybrid of a tearjerker and a romantic comedy: two of the "chick flick" staple genres. Good casting and likeable characters partially overcome some issues with pacing and structure. The film is presented on disc with a slightly soft transfer with unambitious but perfectly acceptable audio. A limited collection of extras are highlighted by some interesting deleted scenes and outtakes along with a mildly informative making of featurette.
Edited by Ken_McAlinden - 8/11/2009 at 07:46 pm GMT