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Overall Rating

Awesome: 13.33%
Worth A Look: 0%
Pretty Bad: 23.33%
Total Crap: 3.33%

4 reviews, 6 user ratings

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by Beth Gilligan

"Laura Linney's performance stands out in an otherwise unmemorable film."
3 stars

Over the past decade, Laura Linney has quietly emerged as one of the finest actresses of her generation. While her films may vary wildly in quality, her performances do not. Even in the most poorly-scripted, formulaic junk, Linney manages to breathe life into characters who otherwise would be severely lacking in dimensionality.

In Love Actually (2003), she gave her Miss Lonelyheart character a dignity not allotted to her in the script, and managed much of the same in muddled mess that was The Life of David Gale (2003). Despite being somewhat upstaged by her showy male co-stars in both The Truman Show (1998) and Mystic River (2003), Linney nevertheless showed aplomb in registering the emotions of two difficult, complicated women.

Her best performance to date remains her Oscar-nominated turn as a frazzled single mother in You Can Count on Me (2000), where she went toe-to-toe with the absurdly gifted Mark Ruffalo. However, P.S. (2004) is truly Linney’s first leading lady vehicle, and unfortunately, it does not quite live up to her talents.

P.S. is co-written and directed by Dylan Kidd, whose first feature, Roger Dodger (2002), provided a potent acting showcase for the underutilized Campbell Scott. The film centers around Louise Harrington (Linney), a lonely Columbia University art school admissions officer still smarting from her recent divorce. Alienated from most of her family and lacking any nearby friends, Louise has carved out a largely solitary existence for herself, spending most of her free time with her ex-husband Peter (Gabriel Byrne), to whom she remains unhealthily close, or on the phone with her best friend Missy (Marcia Gay Harden), who lives in California.

Just as she is getting used to spending her nights and weekends alone, Louise receives a much-need jolt in the form of an MFA applicant named F. Scott Feinstadt (Topher Grace). As it turns out, Scott Feinstadt was also the name of Louise’s high school boyfriend, an aspiring artist who died in a car accident twenty years ago. Although her memories of their relationship are complicated, it is clear she yet to fully let go of him.

It is to her surprise, then, that the F. Scott Feinstadt who walks into her office for an admissions interview bears an uncanny resemblance to her deceased love in both looks and personality. Terrified but also eager to recapture a part of her life she has lost, Louise initiates an affair with F. Scott, who, despite being initially baffled by her strong reaction to him, finds himself increasing drawn to this sad, complex woman.

As in Roger Dodger, Kidd proves himself adept at crafting protagonists who defy easy categorization. He has considerably more trouble, however, at shaping a larger narrative. Although the film’s screenplay is based on a novel by Helen Schulman (who co-wrote the screenplay with Kidd), one comes away from it with the sense that the writers had an idea for a character, and then decided to base a movie around her. The character of Missy, for instance, functions largely in service of Louise. She is given a few quirks to make her come alive, but for the most part Missy serves as a vehicle through which the writers are able to convey important details about what Louise was like in high school. Peter plays a similar role in helping the audience understand the woman that Louise has since become.

Only Linney and Grace emerge fully unscathed for this, having both been given room by Kidd and Schulman to inhabit fully-formed characters. In the end, P.S. is really Linney’s movie, but Grace also delivers the type of performance that suggests he will make an easy transition from his regular gig on TV’s “That ‘70s Show” to the big screen. One can only hope that both actors will eventually fall into films that match the quality of their performances.

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originally posted: 10/08/04 03:52:28
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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

5/25/12 Dane Youssef This is one of the best films of 2004. The actors, screenwriters and directors make magic. 5 stars
10/06/10 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
2/18/05 Darryl Read like an interesting premise in the video store, but I thought it was boring. 2 stars
2/16/05 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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