PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

P.S. I Love You

For all his plain-speaking, down-homey affect, Harry Connick, Jr. remains something of a mystery.

P.S. I Love You

Director: Richard LaGravenese
Cast: Hilary Swank, Gerard Butler, James Marsters, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Lisa Kudrow, Gina Gershon, Kathy Bates, Harry Connick Jr.
MPAA rating: PG-13
Studio: Warner Bros.
First date: 2007
UK Release Date: 2008-01-04 (General release)
US Release Date: 2007-12-21 (General release)

For all his plain-speaking, down-homey affect, Harry Connick, Jr. remains something of a mystery. While it's easy to appreciate his dedication to New Orleans' recovery or his uncanny appropriation of Sinatra's swing, his movie career is curious. Reliably charming, he shows a talent for playing characters who seem much like himself, and bending each context to his amiable will. No matter the context -- Copycat, Independence Day, Basic, even TV's Will & Grace -- Connick is beguiling. This even when the projects are emphatically not.

Case in point: P.S. I Love You, a miserable holiday romance ostensibly starring Hilary Swank as worrywart Holly and Gerard Butler as her gorgeous husband Gerry. As the movie begins, these two are in serious love, though their marriage is marked by disagreements, financial anxieties, and hopes for the future. During a lengthy post-dinner-out argument and make-up session that establishes what's at stake, she laments their lack of forward motion, their teeny New York apartment, while he wheedles her into remembering just how much she really does adore his smilin' Irish eyes -- and oh yes, abs. They yell and march about, and she tosses a few shoes across the narrow expanse of their bedroom (note the shoes -- these are Important Later), and then he does a little show that involves his boxers and his abs, and soon they're proclaiming the depth and foreverness of their coupledom.

Until... the next scene, when he's dead of a brain tumor and she's at his wake, held by her meddling mom (Kathy Bates) at the restaurant she runs. Here you meet Holly's several friends, as they engage in some drinking and weeping, all sad and especially worried about her. Holly puts on a bit of a show herself, as the I-can-cope grieving widow, while coupled friends Sharon (Gina Gershon) and John (James Marsters, reminding you how much you miss Spike) offer standard support and unmarried Denise (Lisa Kudrow) hits on random men at the bar ("Are you single?" "Are you gay?"). Here's where you also meet Daniel (Connick), awkwardly and seriously crushing on Holly in a wholly inappropriate and strangely inoffensive way. If only, you begin to think, this romance gets under way soon, and Connick can bring his peculiar charms to the proceedings.

But no. Daniel is more or less disappeared from the film at this point, leaving the bulk of the emotional work to Holly, who is definitively not up to it. A real estate broker (whose daytimes apparently made her highly aware of the smallness of her nighttime options), she now stays home and misses Gerry. Her missing takes the form of repeated flashbacks and occasional hallucinations, so Butler gets his star-billable screen time: Gerry plays his guitar ("Do all Irish men sing?" she asks, tenderly; "Only the really well hung ones," he jokes). Some weeks later, it's her 30th birthday and Holly's still moping around the apartment, littered with dirty dishes and half-eaten pizzas, as she doesn't wash her hair and sings along with Judy Garland on "The Man Who Got Away." Cue the entrance of the concerned family-and-friends.

At the same time, Holly gets her first dose of the movie's gimmick, the year's worth of posthumous letters from Gerry, arranged to arrive every day. He just knew that she wouldn't have a "plan" for her widowhood (and who would?), and so designs to help her over a series of movie-genic humps: task by task, he sends her off to buy new outfits, sing karaoke, get drunk, and eventually, journey to Wicklow County in Ireland, where she met him when she was a winsome, brightly colored college student. (Though Holly never looks quite college-aged or winsome, this flashback does offer Gerry a chance to show what attracted her in the first place.) She meets his parents, opens more letters, and enjoys a seemingly chance encounter with another Irishman who sings, William (Jeffrey Dean Morgan).

It's not a little depressing that Holly, seemingly capable if slightly manic before Gerry's death, is so seemingly unable to function without his from-beyond guidance. While the letters-leading-to-flashbacks device occasions something like an explanation for her devastation (really, he was all the fun in her over-planned, under-improvised life), it also limits her characterization to memories of moments with him. The friends and mom put up with all this, going along with any number of Gerry-arranged outings (including the trip to Ireland), as if they have nothing else to do but attend to Holly's year of mourning. If she's not plainly grateful for their infinite patience and energy, you certainly are, as their snarky observations ease the schmaltz on any number of occasions.

Which brings us back to Daniel, who finally reenters the picture just when Holly's deciding on a new career and looking more forward than back. He offers more clumsy hopes for romance and a few choice moments: "What do you people want?" he wonders about women, feeling forever lost when it comes to pleasing her or other unseen objects of flirtation. Treating her to an "Irish" memorial and corned beef sandwiches, Daniel gives up. Holly apologizes for "bringing up" Gerry yet again. And Daniel looks her in the eye and states what you've been thinking for the last hour: "Yeah, I am tired of it." Thank you, Harry Connick, Jr.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.