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Overall Rating

Awesome: 13.33%
Worth A Look: 0%
Just Average60%
Pretty Crappy: 23.33%
Sucks: 3.33%

4 reviews, 6 user ratings

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by Robert Flaxman

"Far less cute than the trailers would have you believe."
2 stars

With Hollywood so often inclined to cast older men opposite much younger women, such as Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones (39 years apart) or Richard Gere and Winona Ryder (22 years apart), it's always refreshing to see a movie like P.S., which runs in the opposite direction. Leads Laura Linney and Topher Grace have a 14-year age difference, which is played in the film as even a couple years more than that. The film doesn't even make too huge a deal about the age difference, so it feels more natural. Unfortunately, this good bit of casting is in service of a mess of a movie.

P.S. is a very extreme film, in the sense that everything it does, it either does very well or pretty badly. The film finds very little middle ground; instead, it creates remarkably believable characters, and then tears them down by placing them into situations which feel entirely false. Some of the dialogue is great, and some of it falls flat on its face.

It's beginning to look like Topher Grace plans to make a movie career out of playing the "nice jerk" - that is, the guy who's kind of a creep, but who we're apparently supposed to root for anyway. Here we're asked to buy that this kid could smarm his way into an admissions office, stomp out when his work was described as "showing promise," and still sleep with the admissions officer in under an hour.

The hook of P.S. is that Louise (Linney) is attracted to F. Scott (Grace) because he looks, talks, acts, and paints like her high school boyfriend, in addition to having most of the same name. Even with this added incentive, though, the relationship just feels ridiculous, mostly because the film doles out the backstory so sparingly that it does very little to earn the sense that Louise could be so hung up on this past relationship as to let it dictate her love life more than twenty years later.

The film is heavy-handed in its depiction of Louise beginning to feel her age (the opening sequence shows her applying makeup, and we see her staring at young couples making out on the university steps several times), but it never really goes back to that well after F. Scott is introduced, as though the issue no longer needed to be discussed. As I said, it's nice that director Dylan Kidd and Helen Schulman, who wrote the novel and co-wrote the screenplay with Kidd, don't try to make the only distinguishing feature of the relationship its May-December aspect, but they do a little too much to gloss it over a lot of the time. There's subtle and then there's buried.

Worse, the film has two plots, and chooses to focus all its energy on the neater, but far less interesting, of the two. The secondary plot concerns Louise's dealings with her ex-husband Peter (Gabriel Byrne) and brother Sammy (Paul Rudd), both of whom are in recovery from addictions (Peter to sex, Sammy to drugs). In the moments where Louise interacts with them regarding their addictions, we can see the souls of the characters laid bare. Byrne and Rudd are both wonderful, and Linney, while hardly a sympathetic character in those scenes, is equally good.

Yet these scenes are mere distractions that have little to do with the film's real trajectory. They tie in vaguely to the ending, which is both far too quick and far too neat, but in general they don't add much. And it's a shame, because the addiction stories are much better than the rest of the film. They're nothing new, to be sure, but they could have benefited from a bigger role, at least. One can sense that they may have actually had more presence in the novel and then were chopped out because they seemed less important.

The film's contrast between the real and outlandish is not its worst problem, but in the end it's probably the most glaring. We have scenes with remarkable honesty, like the sex scene between Louise and F. Scott, which Kidd never tries to eroticize - it's just sex. But then we have the entire plot with Louise's improbably outgoing best friend Missy (Marcia Gay Harden), who just doesn't fit with the film's tone as a character who's pretty grating in her oversexed actions. The idea that F. Scott is either a reincarnated version of Louise's old boyfriend or a one-in-a-trillion coincidence is also hard to digest, as neither choice is satisfyingly realistic.

The acting is solid throughout, though Grace seems a little intimidated at times (as well he should be, really, spending so much time opposite an Oscar nominee), and the characters are all pretty close to three-dimensional as a result. They just can't save the film, whose plot neither stretches far enough nor makes enough sense to use any of its characters very well.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=10459&reviewer=385
originally posted: 11/24/04 00:40:40
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Chicago Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Chicago Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Starz Denver Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Starz Denver Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Toronto Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Mill Valley Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Mill Valley Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Sydney Film Festival For more in the 2005 Sydney Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Brisbane Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Brisbane Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

5/24/12 Dane Youssef This is one of the best films of 2004. The actors, screenwriters and directors make magic. 5 stars
10/05/10 saad nice to watch this movie 5 stars
3/22/09 Dane Youssef All shine and sparkle. Of the stellar cast, Grace is a standout. A beautiful love story. 5 stars
10/09/06 Steve Luck Possibly the worst film I've seen since Battefield Earth. 1 stars
2/17/05 Darryl Read like an interesting premise in the video store, but I thought it was boring. 2 stars
2/15/05 Michael Michael Terrific acting from all, esp. Topher Grace, the finest actor of his generation. Touching 5 stars
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  15-Oct-2004 (R)
  DVD: 08-Feb-2005



Directed by
  Dylan Kidd

Written by
  Dylan Kidd

  Laura Linney
  Topher Grace
  Gabriel Byrne
  Marcia Gay Harden
  Paul Rudd
  Lois Smith

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