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P.S.

review by Zach B.

 

 

MPAA Rating: R (For Language and Sexuality)

Running Time: 99 Minutes

Starring: Laura Linney, Topher Grace, Paul Rudd, Lois Smith with Gabriel Byrne and Marcia Gay Harden

Screenplay by: Helen Schulman and Dylan Kidd
Based on the novel by: Helen Schulman

Directed by: Dylan Kidd

 

Studio: Sony

Retail Price: $24.96

Features: Audio Commentary with Director/Co-Writer Dylan Kidd and Director Of Photography Joaquin Baca-Asay, Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary, Theatrical Trailer

Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English Dolby Surround, English Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scene Selection (24 Scenes)

Released: March 15th, 2005

 

 

Louise Harrington (Laura Linney) is a divorced, thrity-nine year-old Columbia University admissions officer. Louise is lonely, and seems to live in the past too much. However, Louise is forced to requestion herself, the past and those around her when she receives an application from a budding artist by the name of F. Scott Feinstadt (Topher Grace). Louise is taken aback, as F. Scott not only looks like her deceased high school boyfriend, but draws like him and has similar mannerisms too. As Louise begins to get to know this younger Scott, a lot more mystery and truths unravel. Has Louise been given a second chance at love, and is there really a lot more than F. Scott at stake in her life?

It may seem like a fluffy romantic tale dealing with the ever-important questions of fate and reincarnation, but "P.S." is a lot more bittersweet if anything. Actually, it would be fair to say that this is a pretty heavy movie. The beauty of "P.S." is that not only it reflects in how making certain choices in life can affect us, but also how important love and human connection is to everybody. The movie also says a lot about hanging onto the past and how people must learn to let go of certain feelings they hold, but probably not in the way you'd expect. The character of Louise isn't just hanging onto Scott &emdash; she's bitter about certain failures in her life, such as her divorce (more particularly, how the last years of her marriage limped on) and the family dynamic she shares with her mother and brother.

In some respect though, "P.S." is the antithesis of Dylan Kidd's first movie, the critically acclaimed "Roger Dodger." The contrast between his first feature and his sophomore feature might be something worth exploring, but they are actually share some similarities. Both movies go in-depth to flawed human characters who struggle in their own ways, and both films deal in the formation of human relationships and the deconstruction of those relationships.

While I have never read the novel it is based on, it would still seem that "P.S." is the type of story where the storyteller could go nuts about fate or mere coincidences. Thankfully though, Kidd's film stays away from pointless theorizing or becoming overly romantic. And even though Kidd has made a balanced movie, that is slow-moving at times, the talented filmmakers shows his strength in subtly. The story is filled with many underplayed moments that bring out what could be fate or coincidences. That is a blessing in itself, since if this was a studio film, one could be sure that studio executives would want a certain kind of straightforward "magic" to be poured over the heads of the audience.

The ending to the film is not a cop-out exactly, but depending on how one views Louise, it's possible to think there could be a lack of logic. It's hard to be specific without giving anything away, but a lot depends on how much faith the viewer puts into Louise and her actions, and I think Kidd and Schulman's script make her a more than believable and credible character, with her own cracks and all. And while the ending may not exactly be a twist, Kidd is sure to pull the rug out from under his viewers before then several times. These twists add much more to the characters and explain a lot of things, and best of all, they come out naturally and tie into the story's points about jealousy and human desire.

If "P.S." actually got a wider release and more attention upon its theatrical release (which it certainly deserved), then Laura Linney's chances of receiving another Oscar nomination would have been definitely been boosted. As usual, Linney gives a pitch-perfect performance that is emotional and raw. You can really feel the heartache that Louise feels, as well as the overwhelming intensity as she's stockpiled with several revelations concerning those who are close to her, certain denials about her past and her bewilderment that if her ex-lover is really reincarnated. It's not easy to pull off so many emotions and juggle them so well, but as Linney proves, she's one of the few actresses out there working today who is more than capable of that.

Topher Grace, who's star is really starting to rise, gives a low-key but perfectly nuanced performance as the second F. Scott Feinstadt who enters Louise's life. Grace is charming, but at times shows a cockiness too. In short, he really gives the right spark to the character and has strong chemistry with Linney. Grace really plays the character just right, because he doesn't let on anything to let the audience know who exactly this second F. Scott is. Paul Rudd puts in a really nice small performance as Louise's recovering drug addict brother who she's often at odds with and Marcia Gay Harden physically pops up in the last half-hour as Louise's manipulative best friend Missy with a past of her own. Finally, there's Gabriel Byrne who proves to be quite charismatic, but is also quite heartbreaking. Byrne really impresses in a key monologue he gives to Linney about his own past.

There's a lot to take away from "P.S." In fact, a lot of the movie is about interpretation &emdash; which perfectly fits in with the story's whole art motif, and a key painting that hangs in Louise's apartment. "P.S." is definitely not for everybody, but I'm sure those who enjoyed the novel and those who are fans of the actors will be drawn to see the movie. And even though one can touch on a lot of what the story and characters offer the first time around, "P.S." will be a movie worth revisiting time and time again. The amount of depth and truth it holds is staggering, as the film's nature will surely offer new things to discover and grasp in repeat viewings.

 

Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, "P.S." looks mighty fine given its low budget. Fleshtones look nice, colors are well saturated and the detail is pretty solid. There isn't any edge enhancement to speak of, and the lack of edge halos are certainly a plus. Unfortunately, the transfer is a bit too grainy at times and is ultimately really soft. There's also noticeable blemishes and dirt pieces throughout. Still, these little instances do not overwhelm as this is a very good transfer overall.

 

"P.S." is one of "those" movies &emdash; a drama that's driven by dialogue rather than bombastic sound effects. With that said, the English Dolby Digital 5.1 gets the talking part done well &emdash; dialogue is clear and is easy to hear, and is kept to the front. There aren't many surrounds in the movie, and the subwoofer doesn't really make much of a peep. If anything, the rears are given action through the movie's low-key selection of songs. The 5.1 track doesn't exactly immerse the viewer, but if you were expecting it to, then you probably missed the point. An English Dolby Surround track is also included, as well as subtitles in English and English closed captions.

 

Nothing much, but what's here is more than good. There's an Audio Commentary Director/Co-Writer Dylan Kidd and Director Of Photography Joaquin Baca-Asay which is rather outstanding and is far from "pretentious gibberish." Baca-Asay does sprout some supplementary information to Kidd's comments and gives his own thoughts, but this is really Kidd's show. Kidd can be pretty critical of himself at times (he does admit to being a perfectionist), but he gives a very honest and fascinating look into all aspects of the movie: he praises the actors and the crew, he talks about adapting the book, challenges in getting the film made and all that good stuff. But what I really enjoyed is that Kidd touches on the film's various symbolisms and motifs. This is a very intelligent and engaging commentary (there aren't any silent moments to speak of really either), and is one of the best commentaries I've heard in the past few months.

There are five Deleted Scenes, which may not seem like much but end up totaling up to about twenty-six minutes. Two are actually extended sequences, such as when Louise is in the restaurant with F. Scott and when she faces off with Missy in the hotel. Nonetheless, the scenes add even a bit more weight to the movie, and if kept in could have probably made the story even a bit darker and more remorseful. Kidd provides an optional commentary on the scenes, and he gives very solid reasonings on why the cuts had to be made, and even the writing process. After you see the movie, watch these.

There's also the Theatrical Trailer for the movie (in non-anamorphic widescreen), as well as several previews for other Sony Pictures Home Entertainment titles.

 

"P.S." is a mature, and rather adult drama with a solid focus on the flaws of human beings, the lies we tell ourselves and the pains of lost love. The DVD is nice and simple: the transfer is good, the 5.1 mix is balanced and while there are only two real extras to speak of, both are meaty. Since this movie unfortunately did not get a major theatrical run, do rent it if you have any desire to see it.