Review: P.S. I Love You

Some time ago, I saw a preview for the 2007 movie P.S. I Love You. It looked like it was possibly the sappiest romance movie ever; but it also looked kind of charming, and I figured some day I would watch it when I was in the mood for a sappy romance.

So I got it from Netflix a couple months ago, but didn't get around to watching it until tonight.

In this entry, I'm going to give spoilers for the basic premise, which is very clear in the previews and becomes clear by about fifteen minutes into the movie. If you don't even want to know that, though, then best to skip the rest of this entry, except to note that I tentatively recommend this movie if you're looking for a sappy and sweet and funny romance.

The premise of the movie is this:

29-year-old Irish-American woman's Irish husband dies suddenly. While she's grieving, she starts getting letters that her husband wrote her before he died, telling her to go out and do stuff.

(Apparently the book that it's based on, by Irish writer Cecelia Ahern, is set entirely in Ireland.)

And it is indeed a very romantic and tear-jerking romance movie, no question.

But it's not entirely what I was expecting.

For one thing, there are some rougher edges than I expect in romance. It opens with the husband (Gerry) and wife (Holly) having an extended fight about the state of their lives. Both of them are kind of obnoxious in that scene, and various other characters are also kind of obnoxious. At various times, Gerry refers to guys being well-hung, and there are at least two or three castration/emasculation jokes. Gerry's favorite song is the Pogues' “Fairytale of New York.” There's an unusually realistic texture to some of the characters and their interactions, even though much of the movie has the kind of soft focus that one might expect from a romance.

And continuing the contradictions, the movie is in some ways about friendship between women, but it has a heavy focus on their interest in men. I haven't seen enough Sex and the City to know whether it's the same kind of dynamic as that; but despite several scenes in which three or more female friends are onscreen with no men, it comes surprisingly close to not passing the Bechdel/Wallace test. (It does pass, easily, but not as easily as I might have expected. But I suppose I should have expected this, given that it's a heterosexual-romance movie.)

Another surprise for me is that the cast is remarkable. Hilary Swank and Gerard Butler as Holly and Gerry; James Marsters as Gerry's business partner and friend John (with an American accent, which is really disconcerting); Kathy Bates as Holly's mother Patricia; Harry Connick Jr as the bartender at the bar Patricia owns and runs; Gina Gershon and Lisa Kudrow as Holly's best friends; Dean Winters (Charley from Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) in a minor role; Jeffrey Dean Morgan (the Comedian in Watchmen) in a slightly less minor role; and so on.

And one more surprise: I would not have expected the movie to be nearly as funny as it is. I cried about as much as I expected, but I wasn't expecting to laugh out loud repeatedly. I kept being startled into laughter by lines like “[Come] back to bed, or I'm gonna start without you” and “We'll be really weird friends, joined [together] by self-pity, bitterness, and vomit.” And there are a bunch of other funny lines, many of which require too much context to quote. Oh, and there's a great throwaway bit that momentarily (but prominently) shows descriptions of jobs like FBI Agent, Hired Assassin, and Vampire Slayer; it's worth pausing the video to read the written notes on those.

I also mostly liked the ending, though I can't talk about that without significant spoilers, so I'll leave it at that.

Oh, and the soundtrack. Lots of good music. I'll probably buy the soundtrack album.

So overall, although I can't recommend the movie entirely without reservations, I did enjoy it quite a bit; if you're in the mood for a very sappy romance that also manages to be tear-jerking, funny, sweet, a little bit surprising, and full of good actors doing good acting, check it out.

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