PS, I love You

Fri, Dec 21, 2007, 00:00

BE GRATEFUL for small mercies. The most significant change in the transition of PS I Love Youfrom book to movie is in shifting the primary setting of Cecilia Ahern's debut novel from Ireland to New York.

Some Irish scenes remain (the film shot for a fortnight in Dublin and Wicklow) and these are infested with such grating Hollywood notions of Ireland that one dreads to imagine how cringe- inducing it would be if the entire film had been set here.

It has been claimed that the Irish are more sensitive than most nationalities about their representation in movies, but we have had very good reason time and again to react against the blatant stereotyping, tired cliches and phoney accents, and not just in US productions.

In PS I Love You, a flashback introduces Holly (Hilary Swank), an American tourist, and Gerry (Gerard Butler), an Irishman with an always-on cheeky grin to establish how irresistibly charming he is. They meet when she is walking up the Wicklow mountains and he just happens to be coming down the other side. She tells him she is staying at a B&B in what sounds like "Done Low Gar Hee", which he helpfully translates as Dún Laoghaire.

After they marry, Gerry dies of a brain tumour, but not before organising an elaborate series of posthumously delivered messages to help Holly cope with bereavement. This morbid concept has prompted a summary of the movie as "Ghost with a brogue". Which brings us to Butler's Irish accent: it's as authentic as a leprechaun, and all the more surprising from a Scottish actor who spent months here filming Reign of Fire.

Former Friends regular Lisa Kudrow is even more irritating as Holly's man-hungry friend whose inane chat-up lines are repeatedly inserted in what passes for light relief. And Harry Connick jnr is unexpectedly dull as the moody bartender touted as a new man in Holly's life.

Suffice to say that Oscar- winner Swank can proceed with making other plans for Academy Awards night next February. Her chemistry with Butler ranks below zero, but to her credit, she remains admirably deadpan in such an implausible role.

Holly is saddled with a ringtone that plays It's a Long Way to Tipperary. She weeps her way through (far superior) melodramas on DVD. And she spills her whiskey at the sight of a naked Irishman (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), whose ubiquitous presence can only be explained by his multiple occupations as pub singer, sea rescuer and farmhand.

There is copious drinking in PS I Love You, and many explicit close-ups of women's shoes. Modern Ireland is airbrushed from the movie's imagery, but Fáilte Ireland is unlikely to complain. The Emerald Isle is introduced in a swooning travelogue. Holly's mother (Kathy Bates), a first-time visitor who seems to have bought an entire wardrobe at Avoca, clutches her chest in awe at the scenery. Opens today