by Dane Youssef
“P.S.” is one of those rare movies that tells a story which feels too good to be true--the kind that’s escapist-fantasy and only seems to happen in movies and in our most desperate dreams.
But then again, sometimes we see and here that it does happen in real life. Once in a blue moon. It’s every great success story. Like movie-star Lana Turner getting discovered when working in a pharmacy or Muhammad Ali’s almost inhumanly-impossible success with his career in the ring, who talked like a professional wrestler.
“P.S.” is a movie like that. It tells a story as sweet as a fairy tale, that maybe could happen in life. Where a woman feels like when she loses someone, she loses her chance in life. But then something else comes along that is so incredible, it feels like the divine hand. Is God giving her a do-over? And not being so subtle about it?
Laura Linney continues her streak of must-see movies and Oscar-caliber performances here as Louise, a middle-aged admissions director who’s been through a real losing streak throughout her life.
She’s recently divorced from her husband, a compulsive sex-addict who’s diddled anyone who’s set toe in his class. Her best friend seduced away her boyfriend in high school and is now married in an upper-middle class suburb to a man she threatens to cheat on if he doesn’t fulfill his “husbandly duties.” She’s living the kind of life every woman wants to in her most cynical, vengeful, self-absorbed fantasies.
Laura’s getting older, life’s getting harder (and it hasn't been very charmed to begin with). She begins to see all her hopes and dreams fading fast. And things get even more interesting when she has a private one-on-one interview with a potential art student.
This guy is just her type. Not only, but… he bears an uncanny resemblance to her late college boyfriend, an art major with a passion that matched hers. This guy doesn’t just look--he sounds, acts, behaves and his art is even similar. Louise is in shock.
What is this? Coincidence? Incidental? Has she been working herself too hard? Stress? Reincarnation? An escapist-fantasy movie-plot? Whatever it is, Louise is rubbing here eyes while warming up to this guy. Getting to know him… finds herself feeling something…. While trying to keep her feelings at bay. She’s a skeptic. She’s got one heck a heck of a track record.
One of the most refreshing things about the actress Laura Linney is that she's not just another manufactured beauty from off the assembly line. She's not just another actress. She's not "one of a million." She's just so real. She's not movie-star-ish.
She doesn’t wear designer clothes wherever she goes, live in a six-story mansion of Mulholland Dr, smoke cigarettes from a long black holder and have a private trophy room for all her honors. When she acts, it doesn't feel like acting. You feel you know her. She's a real person.
The same hold true for Topher Grace, which explains his success as an actor. He seems so adult, so grown-up for his age. Grace is charismatic and seems smart, his gift and his power on-screen doesn't come from a natural Brando-like acting talent, but his face, his body, his voice, his personality. Somehow, everything he says sounds like he means it. He's so square, so on-the-level. All he has to do is speak to convince you that he's legit.
As an actor, Grace has a style all his own which may or may not be intentional. He has an Anti-Brando method. He never changes his appearance or voice at all in his roles, but he has an earnest, open-faced, true-to-life and genuinely human way in every movie he so much as touches. Which explains why Hollywood keeps throwing mountains of scripts his way and why every movie he’s in, he’s given a nomination for something.
This is some of the best acting either Linney or Grace has ever done so far, pure and simple.
Gabriel Bryne, one of the finest actors in the world brings his trade-mark debonair and charisma in the role of Peter Harrington, Louise’s ex-husband who’s nasty habit primarily caused their divorce. There scenes that poke fun and make light of his “fucking” habit are almost worth the rental price.
Which is why he takes home award after award for nearly every movie he does, because something about his whole appearance and personality makes it come across like he's just himself being himself, not an actor.
While "P.S." may just come across as a woman's picture (and it may well be), this isn't just a moody, sensitive, overly-emotional "chick-flick" to be seen on a "woman's day." This is a movie about some people who are seriously dealing with the trials of life at a turning point of age.
Paul Rudd, who been the key performance in some damn good movies, has basically just a little cameo, but as the estranged brother, he gives us further magnified scope into Louise’s little life. He’s a reformed junkie with a condescending, sadistic streak towards his big sis.
The movie has a deep, human, true-to-life atmosphere all throughout. There’s nary a moment that is written or executed in a way that feels contrived. Nothing in “P.S.” needs willing suspension of disbelief. Everything feels so beautiful and natural as the falling of the rain.
I’ve read an endless number of reviews for this movie which charge Dylan Kidd with making a picture less impressive than his previous effort. Ah, the sophomore jinx. I didn’t see his freshman effort, “Roger Dodger,” so I’m not particularly biased. And anyway, shouldn’t a film be judged solely on its own merits? Even Steven Spielberg made “Always,” “Hook” and “1941.”
Listen folks, seriously, so many filmmakers are accused being cursed with the dreaded “sophomore jinx” because when it comes to art, there are people who rate novelty above all else.
Movies like “Birth and “Return To Me” have tackled this subject before, but here it feels so legitimate. Like “Rocky,” this one makes us believe clichés can happen… and make us care.
--P.S, Dane Youssef