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Louise Harrington, a divorced, thirty-something admissions officer at Columbia University's School of Fine Arts is intelligent, pretty, and successful, yet unfulfilled. That is, until a graduate school application crosses her desk and she arranges to interview the young painter. When F. Scott Feinstadt appears, he bears an uncanny resemblance to Louise's high school boyfriend and one true love, an artist who died in a car accident twenty years earlier. Within hours of the interview, Louise and Scott have embarked on a passionately uninhibited older woman/younger man affair. But is Scott just a reminder of Louise's lost love? And is Scott just trying to wheedle his way into the Ivy League? Adding to the romantic complications is competition from Louise's best friend from high school, Missy, who shows up to claim the affections of the boy; Louise's co-dependent ex-husband Peter; her cynical mother and fresh-out-of-rehab brother. Written by
Sujit R. Varma
Stellar lead performances lift this above the ordinary
Writer-director Dylan Kidd's "P.S." is funny, sweet and moving and better than most romantic-comedies these days.
Laura Linney's magnificent. Then again, when is she not? Let's face it, she, and not Julia Roberts, should have won the Best Actress Oscar for 2000. Linney makes acting look so easy, a pleasure to watch.
In "P.S.," Linney's Louise Harrington, a Columbia University administrator who maintains a close relationship with her ex-husband, Peter (Gabriel Byrne). One day she's startled when she gets an application to the School of Visual Arts from a young artist named F. Scott Feinstadt. Her shock? Her late childhood sweetheart was an artist named Scott Feinstadt. Naturally, Louise wants to know more about the young applicant and what follows is a wonderful telling of the lengths to which we go sometimes to rekindle old passions.
As captivating as Linney is in this film, Topher Grace, best known for his playing Eric on TV's "That '70s Show," turns in a performance that's surprisingly good, filled with warmth, humor. This chap's got a promising career ahead of him. Grace's F. Scott has attitude to spare and Kidd uses him wisely. Our introduction to F. Scott is not what we'd normally expect - a meet-cute or the initial interview at Columbia. No, the first time we're aware of F. Scott is through a telephone, when Louise calls him up to ask for samples of his work. It's a deft touch by Kidd. It's a breezy, fun turn by Grace who imbues F. Scott with confidence and a cavalier attitude that immediately lets us know what kind of a person he is even before we see him.
Louise's transformation once she meets F. Scott showcases what a fine actress Linney is. There's this charming schoolgirlish giddiness about Louise. We watch as this mature woman feels the excitement of a new love and it's something with which we're all familiar.
The film runs into problems when we're introduced to Louise's best friend, Missy (Marcia Gay Harden), a flirt who played a key role in the Louise-Scott relationship years before. I never quite bought Harden's role and the Louise-Missy conflict isn't nearly as interesting as watching Louise blossom into a sprightly woman with a tremendous crush. Her love affair is more enticing and funnier than a disagreement that seems fabricated to give us some conflict.
Kidd doesn't fixate on whether F. Scott really is Louise's sweetheart reborn. It really doesn't matter. This film is about life's delightful coincidences. Sometimes, facts are stranger than fiction. So it's irrelevant whether Kidd solves that mystery.
Kidd's direction here seems more assured than his debut film, "Rodger Dodger" (2002). But his characters aren't as memorable and "P.S." might not have moments you recall years later - I still remember the park bench and party-crashing scenes from "Rodger Dodger." But "P.S." still is an awfully good film with a fine ensemble cast. It could be tightened; the film feels about five minutes too long. But that's a minor quibble.
This is yet another good film having difficulty getting released. "P.S." isn't one of the great films of the year. But it's infinitely better than most of the movies in wide release right now. It has two outstanding performances, plenty of genuinely good laughs and is an enchanting romantic-comedy that deserves to be seen by more people.
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