Not swanky at all, at all

PS I LOVE YOU Di­rected by Richard LaGrave­nese. Star­ring Hi­lary Swank, Ger­ard But­ler, Kathy Bates, Lisa Kudrow, Harry Con­nick jnr, Jef­frey Dean Morgan, Gina Ger­shon 12A cert, gen re­lease, 125 min

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Filmreviews - MICHAEL DWYER

BE GRATE­FUL for small mer­cies. The most sig­nif­i­cant change in the tran­si­tion of PS I Love You from book to movie is in shift­ing the pri­mary set­ting of Ce­cilia Ah­ern’s de­but novel from Ire­land to New York. Some Ir­ish scenes re­main (the film shot for a fort­night in Dublin and Wick­low) and th­ese are in­fested with such grat­ing Hol­ly­wood no­tions of Ire­land that one dreads to imag­ine how cringein­duc­ing it would be if the en­tire film had been set here.

It has been claimed that the Ir­ish are more sen­si­tive than most na­tion­al­i­ties about their rep­re­sen­ta­tion in movies, but we have had very good rea­son time and again to re­act against the bla­tant stereo­typ­ing, tired cliches and phoney ac­cents, and not just in US pro­duc­tions.

In PS I Love You, a flash­back in­tro­duces Holly (Hi­lary Swank), an Amer­i­can tourist, and Gerry (Ger­ard But­ler), an Ir­ish­man with an al­ways-on cheeky grin to es­tab­lish how ir­re­sistibly charm­ing he is. They meet when she is walk­ing up the Wick­low moun­tains. She tells him she is stay­ing at a B&B in what sounds like “Done Low Gar Hee”, which he help­fully trans­lates as Dún Laoghaire.

Af­ter they marry, Gerry dies of a brain tu­mour, but not be­fore or­gan­is­ing an elab­o­rate se­ries of posthu­mously de­liv­ered mes­sages to help Holly cope with be­reave­ment. This mor­bid con­cept has prompted a sum­mary of the movie as “Ghost with a brogue”. Which brings us to But­ler’s Ir­ish ac­cent: it’s as au­then­tic as a lep­rechaun, and all the more sur­pris­ing from a Scot­tish ac­tor who spent months here film­ing Reign of Fire.

For­mer Friends reg­u­lar Lisa Kudrow is even more ir­ri­tat­ing as Holly’s man-hun­gry friend whose inane chat-up lines are re­peat­edly in­serted in what passes for light re­lief. And Harry Con­nick jnr is un­ex­pect­edly dull as the moody bar­tender touted as a new man in Holly’s life.

Suf­fice to say that Os­car­win­ner Swank can pro­ceed with mak­ing other plans for Academy Awards night next Fe­bru­ary. Her chem­istry with But­ler ranks be­low zero, but to her credit, she re­mains ad­mirably dead­pan in such an im­plau­si­ble role.

Holly is sad­dled with a ring­tone that plays It’s a Long Way to Tip­per­ary. She weeps her way through (far su­pe­rior) melo­dra­mas on DVD. And she spills her whiskey at the sight of a naked Ir­ish­man (Jef­frey Dean Morgan), whose ubiq­ui­tous pres­ence can only be ex­plained by his mul­ti­ple oc­cu­pa­tions as pub singer, sea res­cuer and farm­hand.

There is co­pi­ous drink­ing in PS I Love You, and many ex­plicit close-ups of women’s shoes. Mod­ern Ire­land is air­brushed from the movie’s im­agery, but Fáilte Ire­land is un­likely to com­plain. The Emer­ald Isle is in­tro­duced in a swoon­ing travelogue. Holly’s mother (Kathy Bates), a first-time vis­i­tor who seems to have bought an en­tire wardrobe at Avoca, clutches her chest in awe at the scenery.

“Ex­cuse me, is the way to Done Low Gar Hee?”

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