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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
"P.S." continues the trend this year of movies and TV shows with aggressive older women attracted to geeky, barely post-adolescent boys.
While most of them come across as male fantasies, this one, based on a novel by Helen Schulman I haven't read yet for comparison, takes the viewpoint of the woman, to make her seem empowered. At least here we see how she herself is still mired in her own Glory Days (just as the male lead in writer/director Dylan Kidd's previous film "Roger Dodger" was), through her memories, her relationships with her brother and mother, and with her ex, whose student she was (though their relationship is talkily given additional problems of lack of urge control that seem unnecessarily complicated -- does Gabriel Byrne ever play a non-adulterous husband?).
Laura Linney is so good, however, that she portrays the character as stronger and making more sense than the situations or her continuing competition with her best friend, as played by Marcia Gay Hayden (and I couldn't figure out when the friend was in New York or California). Hayden's character even defensively says at one point "We're being just like the boys."
Linney is particularly effective with chilling monologues, as she dissects life's disappointments in comparison to adolescent hopes and dreams, that her character has faced not only in her life but daily as a college admissions director. I do challenge as a cultural bias and the character's hang-up the assumption that one is perfect at age 20, such that only the good die young.
While the plot is set in motion by a magic realism kind of coincidence that seems reminiscent of sci-fi-ish films like "Happy Accidents," "Sliding Doors," or "Me, Myself, I," let alone "Vertigo," even the characters agree by the end that they've had enough of this mystical stuff and that angle just gets dropped as they try to be real.
The film uses the Columbia University setting effectively and the soundtrack and scoring are full of New York City musicians, including Yo Le Tengo, Martha Wainwright, Citizen Cope and cellist Jane Scarpontoni.
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