“P.S.” is the movie the Lifetime Network would make if they could get away with F-words on basic cable. It is about a woman who has to Find Herself, and who has a hot romance with a younger man while she’s looking. What more do you want? Am I right, ladies?!
The film starts out being about reincarnation, maybe, though not seriously about it as “Birth” is. Louise Harrington (Laura Linney), director of admissions for the art program at Columbia University, notices an application from one F. Scott Feinstadt. This is noteworthy because 20 years ago, she was in love with an F. Scott Feinstadt, who was also an artist, but who died in a car accident. On a whim, she calls this new F. Scott and arranges an admissions interview with him. She has to meet the kid who has the same name and same profession as the old F. Scott.
F. Scott (Topher Grace) — who in fact goes by F. Scott, not just Scott — is a laid-back artist of the non-abstract school, full of mad, youthful energy and a confidence that borders on arrogance. Louise is captivated by him, and by his resemblance to her dead boyfriend. They wind up at her house, where some awkward, ravenous sex is engaged in. A relationship starts.
But the movie isn’t really about the possible reincarnation of F. Scott Feinstadt. It’s about Louise’s inability to let anything go without perfecting it first. She only barely recovered from F. Scott’s death, and her marriage to Peter Harrington (Gabriel Byrne) ended in divorce, though he remains her best friend. When she learns, much after the fact, that he cheated on her during their marriage, she is devastated by the revelation, not because she feels betrayed, but because it ruins the picture she had of her marriage. It introduces loose threads where everything had been tidied up.
Written and directed by Dylan Kidd (whose debut film, “Roger Dodger,” showed so much more promise than this) and based on the novel by Helen Schulman, the film inelegantly squeezes Louise’s two family members into the picture. Her mother (Lois Smith) belittles her regularly, unconsciously, and probably lovingly. Her brother (Paul Rudd), a recovering addict and a full-fledged prodigal son, she is jealous and suspicious of. He seems to have let go of the past, and she can’t relate to that. Mom and brother are in the film not as characters but as devices to help Louise understand herself better. They have no meaning apart from her; when she is not on the screen with them, they cease to exist.
Laura Linney and Topher Grace are two very compelling actors, each with talent, charm and dignity to spare. They elevate the material a bit, but they can’t escape the fact that the movie only has vague goals set for itself. An uncertain movie is an uncertain movie, no matter how good the acting is.
C+ (1 hr., 39 min.; )