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Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents
P.S. (2004)

"No two snowflakes are exactly alike, but these two are pretty close."
- Missy (Marcia Gay Harden)

Review By: Joel Cunningham   
Published: February 11, 2005

Stars: Laura Linney, Topher Grace
Other Stars: Paul Rudd, Gabriel Byrne, Marcia Gay Harden
Director: Dylan Kidd

Manufacturer: DVDL
MPAA Rating: R for language and sexuality
Run Time: 01h:39m:26s
Release Date: February 08, 2005
UPC: 043396099968
Genre: romance


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B CBB- C

DVD Review

Louise (Laura Linney) is a lonely artist working as an admissions counselor at Columbia University in New York. Her only real friend is her ex-husband, and she hasn't dated anyone since the end of her marriage. But her life takes a turn when she gets an application from F. Scott (Topher Grace), a young man who has the same name, the same face, and the same artistic talent as Louise's high school sweetheart, who has been dead for decades. Louise once again falls into a relationship with the boy, even as she questions her own sanity.

Writer/director Dylan Kidd's treatment of the rather mystical occurrence is understated to say the leastóLouise seems to accept it rather quickly, and there's not even the slightest hint of greater forces, or magic, or reincarnation, or anything at work. Not that treating the bizarre as an everyday event can't work in a film; it just seems a little weird (look how much trouble it caused for Nicole Kidman in the similarly themed Birth, also released last year to great critical indifference).

That plot seems more than enough for one screenplay, but Kidd and Schulman throw in off-the-wall subplots and odd character revelations that serve only to obscure the central romance (I can only assume the material worked better in the novel). Marcia Gay Harden, an actress I usually enjoy, pops in to provide conflict during the third act. Her character, Missy, supposedly Louise's oldest friend, is an exaggerated, over-the-top sexpot who seems to have wandered in from a very different movie, and she shares a few intense, utterly unbelievable heartfelt moments with the leading lady before flitting back to Mars or a David O. Russell film or something (even before she appeared onscreen, the character managed to annoy me as she blathered to Louise over the phone about her plans to cheat on her husband). Meanwhile, Louise's ex-husband Peter (a floundering Gabriel Byrne) reveals a rather momentous secret about his past, with no buildup to it (he's really only in the opening scene, then he leaves the story for an hour before returning for his confession) and no real fallout, and Paul Rudd has a confusingly meaningless part as Louise's formerly drug-addicted brother, who has replaced psychotropics with the stock market and invested some of Peter and Missy's money.

The side storylines don't really go anywhere, and every the central mystery fizzles out before the characters really have a chance to even deal with it, but somehow, the movie is worth watching for two reasons: Laura Linney and Topher Grace. Great work is de rigueur from Linney these days, of course—everyone expects a lot out of her after a decade of strong performances in films like The Truman Show and You Can Count on Me, and with P.S., she delivers once again, managing to find a character amid Louise's random tics and mood swings (though the Academy chose to favor her work in the biopic Kinsey, granting her a supporting actress nomination over a nod for the lead here). Surprisingly, Grace does equally good work with his vaguely defined character; he's gotten a lot of attention for his strong showing in the mainstream hit In Good Company, but I'm sure his performance there came as no surprise to those who saw P.S.. The two actors make a real connection, particularly during an awkward sex scene, and their performances, if not their characters, exactly, engender a lot of audience good will.

Kidd, a Sundance Film Festival darling who made a name for himself with the digital video comedy Roger Dodger a few years back makes the transition to film and a bigger budget quite nicely. The leisurely pacing works not because it suits the wandering screenplay, but because it gives his actors a chance to really act—he's at least got the good sense to leave the camera on Linney for as long as possible. He and cinematographer Joaquin Baca-Asay manage to add visual variety to a fairly locked down screenplay, with elegantly composed and often memorable New York photography (lonely scenes of Louise looking out her dim office window upon the vibrant, bright bustle of college life playing out below her are particularly striking).

Despite the best intentions of all involved, and though there are more than a few good scenes, you get the idea that P.S. is never really the film it should be. It's worth seeing, especially for those bright enough to adore Laura Linney, but isn't something that will stay with you. Unless, like me, you spend your free time pondering the meaning of the title. Any suggestions?

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: C

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: For a low-budget film, P.S. looks pretty nice on DVD. The image is largely free of distracting grain and features strong, saturated colors and good detail. Black level varies, with some darker scenes on the muddled side, but it isn't a significant problem, nor are the disparate instances of aliasing and digital artifacting that occasionally appear.

Image Transfer Grade: B

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: P.S. includes a front-heavy audio mix typical of a small-scale drama. Dialogue comes through the center channel clearly and the score is mixed nicely into the front mains, but the surrounds stay more or less silent throughout.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
8 Other Trailer(s) featuring Being Julia, Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius, Closer, House of Flying Daggers, Head in the Clouds, Rosenstrasse, Stander , Silver City
5 Deleted Scenes
1 Feature/Episode commentary by writer/director Dylan Kidd and cinematographer Joaquin Baca-Asay
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extras Review: P.S. is a little light on bonus materials. Director Dylan Kidd and cinematographer Joaquin Baca-Asay contribute a fairly dry commentary, while Kidd also speaks over a gallery of five deleted scenes.Note the commentary is housed under audio options rather than bonus material, and is thus easy to miss. I only noticed it because I thought it odd the deleted scenes would include an optional track but not the film proper.

The disc also includes trailers for P.S., Being Julia, Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius, Closer, House of Flying Daggers, Head in the Clouds, Rosenstrasse, Stander , and Silver City.

Extras Grade: C

 

Final Comments

P.S. never quite lives up to its intriguing premise, and by the end, the rather contrived climax, cartoonish secondary characters, and dropped plot threads seem nothing more than a postscript to the wonderful lead performances from Laura Linney and Topher Grace. The DVD should please fans of Dylan Kidd's sophomore effort, but everyone else should try a rental first.

 


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