Several times a year, greeting cards clutter up a mantel -- their words are filled with sentiment, but they don't really say anything and mean even less to others who idly pick them up, flip through them, and put them down without a second thought. P.S. I Love You is no different from the flimsy, forgettable cards that quickly pile up when stuffed away in a drawer. The film is a variation on the rom-com theme, but instead of pining over an attainable man, our female heroine stews about in the murky emotional aftermath of her husband's death.
Opening with an annoying, clichéd fight between Holly (Hilary Swank) and husband Gerry (Gerard Butler), P.S. I Love You quickly takes a turn for the worse with Gerry's death right after the opening credits. Of course, Gerry was the perfect man and devised a plan to send several letters to his widowed wife to help her through her grief after he's passed away. But the film wheels these emotions with no regard for the impact on the characters. Holly's grief is dealt with the same way the film approaches the couple's happy flashbacks -- barely scratching the surface and relying on the sentimental, such as personal trinkets and highlights from their relationship.
To tip the scales of plot balance even further, Daniel (Harry Connick Jr.) is the semi-love interest who claims not to have a filter, blurting out anything that pops in his head -- no matter how insensitive -- and Sharon (Gina Gershon) and Denise (Lisa Kudrow) fill in as nearly-nameless women companions. The film cannot possibly juggle the near-infinite subplots it introduces through these secondary characters. Sure, the film focuses on Holly's immediate loss, but it also introduces Holly's emotional damage from her father's absence, Denise's pursuit for the perfect man, Sharon's own relationship, and some guy Holly sleeps with while on vacation in Ireland, all while Daniel chases after Holly, spouting anything that pops into his head.
Perhaps it's director Richard LaGravenese's unsteady hand that prevents him from reeling in the story and tying up loose threads. Hollywood should start licensing directors who want to use the handheld shaky camera -- LaGravenese falls into the trap of using it whenever he wants to create emotional tension. Unfortunately, that's the job of the actors who have to work with the uninspired script and all the shaky cam does is make us nauseous... though not as sick as the final straw that shatters our sympathy for any part of the film: The answer to Holly's grief is ultimately becoming a shoe designer. It's the culmination of a messy structure of clichés.
Call it emotional escapism or sentimental exploitation, but "chick flicks," like P.S. I Love You, are the female equivalent of the bullets blazing, explosion-filled "guy movie." And they are just as dumb and insulting to audiences. While there's nothing wrong with the occasional escapism -- the seasonal onslaught of target audience-focused films end up being more of a waste of time than an enjoyed vicarious journey. It's a matter of months before P.S. I Love You is tucked away on the video store shelf crowded by other apt titles that echo the genre's emptiness.
P.P.S. Not really.