"P.S." met my expectations because I'd seen director/co-writer Dylan Kidd's
"Roger Dodger". I was prepared
for his strangely behaving characters in situations that are peculiar and
borderline bizarre. His work brings to mind the saying about making your own
bed and having to sleep in it. His people sleep in a bed with a bumpy set of
wrinkles. My troubles with the movie starts with the setup.
Young artist Feinstadt (Topher Grace) decides to palm himself off as F. Scott
Feinstadt in his application for admission to the graduate fine arts program
at Columbia University. When the application comes to the attention of
admissions officer Louise Harrington (Laura Linney) the name on it freezes
her. It's the exact name of her late high school sweetheart. So, what, this
highly intelligent administration bureaucrat thinks the applicant is a
reincarnation? The art department is into the supernatural on this campus?
Reanimation? Return from the dead?
Based on one of these principles, she's already head over heels over the boy
she's never met when she calls him and invites him to her office for an
interview. During the phone call, the applicant breaks down all barriers of
formality or common sense and calls her "Lu." Is this a way to address
someone you need to judge your work? Is he a senseless wiseass who is just
on auto-game-playing mode?
One phone call and he knows how far he can push and get away with being a
social retard. He arrives late, kids her about personal issues as though
they're equals, treats her like she's a date, if not dirt, and whaddayaknow?
She takes him home and screws him. Just as we're beginning to wonder if this
was anything more to him than a case of self-destruction, he clarifies his
level of appreciation by exclaiming, "that was fucking awesome!" So, maybe
he's truly attracted to the older woman, after all. Clear as mud.
As the script would have it, it's enough to give him conflicts. Yes, that's
in the script--it just never felt convincing. Part of it is in Kidd's antic
liberties with human behavior but Linney doesn't work for me as this kind of
sex object either, so casting is another part of my problems with the
picture. Sure, the lady can express a little lust, but motivation and
chemistry were questionable enough to make watching it laborious. The only
point of staying with it was to see where such behavioral concepts could go
After a charming early scene to introduce Gabriel Byrne as Peter Harrington,
her ex-husband and close confidant (remember, the dead F. Scott Feinstadt was
her high school lover, never a husband), he goes on to confess to her that
he's a recovering addict with sex as his drug of choice--one that he indulged
in all through their marriage. This admission is so Harlequinesque as to be
undeserving of serious contemplation. Byrne had to have had a devil of a
time doing it with a straight face.
Then, there's friend and buddy Missy (Marcia Gay Harden), another aging
ex-heartthrob who was Louise's competitor for the affections of their
original F. Scott Feinstadt. They are pals and nemeses in the arena of love
and boyfriends. So some emotional sparks are created between them when the
new F. Scott spends a (purportedly loveless) night with Missy. Again,
fabricated out of whole cloth but I have to admit the scenes between these
two horny mommas are colorful and vibrant.
Linney is... Linney. Safely within her customary range of comfort, she is
not well adapted to sirenesque territory. Would that she uses her plain Jane
sincerity more appropriately, as she did in Kenneth Lonergan's "You Can Count On Me," an acclaimed
role of a sister--not a lover. Or, even, as the Mrs. in the currently
Topher Grace ("Mona Lisa Smile")
is, at times, successfully comedic with an airy, insouciant lightness. Or,
is that glibness? In any case, it comes to some off-putting flippancy in the
delivery of his character although, despite the tendency toward being
unsympathetic, he is the one voice in the piece that engenders interest.
Byrne is as reliable an actor as there is, and he does a yeoman's job of
providing a grounded depth even as the quality is coming apart by the shaky
demands of the script. Harden is obviously enjoying her spoiler role against
her close peer, Linney and, when they're together, there's a feeling of
creative soul-mates. Paul Rudd ("Clueless") as Sammy, Louise's brother, seems
to be playing his minor role as though it's a central element in the
As a director and a writer you work with what you've got... with how and what
you think. Director/co-writer Kidd is nothing if not daring. His is a
peculiar mentality, however, and in the effort to dramatize, even when
working from a novel as in this case, he creates people who raise
questions... about credibility. I wish I could say I can't wait to see
Kidd's next movie, but I can't say that. I can wait; I can wait just
~~ Jules Brenner