Nothing can cure a recently-widowed woman better than a trip to a gay club. Or so that’s what Holly Kennedy’s (Hilary Swank) girlfriends decide in rom-com “P.S. I Love You” after a letter, the first in a string of many, arrives from her dead Irish hubby, Gerry (a charming Gerard Butler), urging her to slap on some sexy dress and snap out of her reclusive state.
Here, her sis (an unnecessary Nellie McKay in her film debut) learns some silly gay game, and Holly gets some Oprah-ish advice from the queers. Then, of course, she chugs a few too many Lemon Drops.
Dead-hubby letters persist, forcing her to relive a god-awful karaoke night in a waterworks scene where she imagines she’s only singing to Gerry. And eventually he lures her – plus gal-pals Sharon (Gina Gershon) and Denise (the hilarious Lisa Kudrow) – to Ireland, where they originally met.
“P.S. I Love You,” a journey about new beginnings, seesaws between funny bits (like an all-chick fishing trip-gone-wrong) and sentimental scenes (like those in which Holly imagines Gerry holding her in bed), and never slips too far into muddy mush.
Which doesn’t seem possible considering the plot – but director Richard LaGravenese (who also co-wrote the script with Cecelia Ahern, the author of the best-selling book) tackles even those scenes, like an unconventional memorial where the priest unexpectedly breaks out in a riotous Christmas song and the guests down shots, with light-hearted humor.
Kudos to Lisa Kudrow’s man-hungry character, too. The former “Friends” star resurrects her sarcastic one-liners, adding some much-needed laughs – like when she questions guys at Gerry’s memorial: “Are you single? Are you gay? Are you working?” And then, whenever the answer disappoints, she silently scurries.
Hilary Swank shines as a woman struggling with moving on, and finding herself during her journey of rediscovery – where a relationship blossoms with blunt-mouthed Daniel (Harry Connick Jr.). She shares a memorable, affectionate scene with on-screen ma Kathy Bates, who could’ve been written merely as the maternal figure trying to push her daughter forward. Luckily, she’s given emotional depth, dealing with issues of her own that gradually surface.
Though flashbacks sometimes falter (Swank and Butler look hardly different 10 years before) and Holly’s other Irish hanky-panky interest seems a bit unbelievable, “P.S. I Love You” is written with colorful characters and unpredictable subplots. It’s a letter to all of us to live brighter, live happier and, heck, just live.
‘P.S. I Love You’
In theaters Dec. 21