Dir: Richard LaGravenese. US. 2007. 126mins
The lightweight Ghost-meets-Bridget Jones dramedy of Irish novelist Cecelia Ahern's PS, I Love You turns into forced romantic comedy in this miscast and largely Americanized screen version starring Hilary Swank and Gerard Butler. Interest in the film's theatrical release will come mostly from avid chick lit readers and fans of rising hunk Butler, though a wider audience should be accessible when the Alcon/Grosvenor Park production reaches the video and TV markets.

Warner Bros opens the PG-13 confection wide in North America next weekend, in the pre-Christmas slot that has worked well for romantic comedies such as last year's The Holiday. But with its limited star power the film will have a hard time competing against several other wide releases.

Summit Entertainment has licensed rights to independent distributors outside the US and a few could do better, relatively speaking, than Warner at the box office . Ahern's celebrity - she's the daughter of Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern - will certainly stir up interest in her home country and the book's popularity in territories including the UK and Germany will have primed audiences in those markets.

The script by director Richard LaGravenese and co-writer Steven Rogers turns late-twenties heroine Holly (Swank) from an Irish party girl into a slightly neurotic American. Holly and Gerry (Butler), her impetuous Irish husband, are trying to make their way in New York when Gerry dies from a brain tumour. Before he goes, however, he arranges for Holly to get a series of letters that, together with the support of her friends and family, will guide her through grief to a new life.

Changing the setting from Dublin to Manhattan - with just a side trip to Ireland when Holly's girlfriends take her back to where she first met Gerry - robs the film of some background colour, but it's the failure to hit the story's emotional notes that is the biggest problem.
Holly and Gerry are supposed to be deeply in love, but we mostly see them bickering, so the tragedy of Gerry's death never quite hits home.

The comedy is uncomfortably broad, or at least LaGravenese seems to be pushing the performers into physically overplaying it. And the casting and some of the performances are off as well. Swank (who was also directed by LaGravenese in her previous film, Freedom Writers) is fairly cute as Holly, but the way she plays the character doesn't fit with some of the situations transplanted from the novel. Butler fits the profile of the handsome, cheeky Irishman, but he pushes the sex appeal - and his accent - a bit too hard.

Lisa Kudrow and Gina Gershon appear too old to play Holly's best friends and Harry Connick Jr struggles to make his role as Holly's quirky new suitor believable. Jeffrey Dean Morgan turns on the charm in a role invented for the film and Kathy Bates plays Holly's mother.
Other elements are suitably appealing for a holiday release. New York looks cosy and rural Ireland looks picture postcard pretty.

Production companies/backers
Alcon Entertainment (US)
Grosvenor Park Films (US-UK)

US distribution
Warner Bros

International sales
Summit Entertainment
(1) 310 309 8400

Wendy Finerman
Broderick Johnson
Andrew A Kosove
Molly Smith

Executive producers
John H Starke
Lisa Zupan
James Hollond
Donald A Starr
Daniel J B Taylor

Screen play
Richard LaGravenese
Steven Rogers

Terry Stacey

Production design
Shepherd Frankel

David Moritz

Costume design
Cindy Evans

John Powell

Main cast
Hilary Swank
Gerard Butler
Lisa Kudrow
Harry Connick Jr
Gina Gershon
Jeffrey Dean Morgan
Kathy Bates