August 13, 2005
Filmmaker Dylan Kidd proved with his debut feature, Rodger Dodger (2002), that he was an adept observer of human behaviour. He has a keen eye on how people interact with one another. Where his first film featured an unsympathetic and often unlikable protagonist, his latest movie, P.S. (2004) focuses on one who is the complete opposite. Once again Kidd examines a relationship between two people but in a much more intimate way.
Louise Harrington (Linney) is the Director of Admissions at Columbia University. She is divorced yet still friends with her ex, Peter (Byrne), a professor at the school. Louise leads a slightly lonely existence and seems to be a bit of a lost soul. The film doesn’t make this explicit, it is more of a feeling conveyed in the faraway looks she occasionally gives and the way she carries herself.
One day, Louise comes across an admissions letter that intrigues her and so she calls the young man (Grace) and schedules an interview. We learn that he has the same name as her high school sweetheart, Scott Feinstadt, who died young. In fact, the young man looks uncannily like him and is also an artist with a similar style of painting. Louise has never forgotten her sweetheart and is haunted by his memory. She has to know if this young man is related in any way to her old flame.
Louise is so taken by this young man that she impulsively bring him back to her place after the interview and seduces him. It is a sexually-charged scene that doesn’t rely on nudity (take note Angelina Jolie) but instead conveys eroticism through the passionate looks that Louise and Scott give each other, the flush of excitement on her skin and the sounds they make as their desire escalates. Director Dylan Kidd depicts the seduction in real time and includes little details like how awkward Scott is when he takes off his clothes and tries to take a condom out of its wrapper. Louise looks on impatiently and then gives him an emotional look that speaks volumes about how much she wants to be with him at that moment. The passion between them feels so authentic—two needy people being with each other in the most intimate way possible.
It’s an audacious move to pull so early on in the movie that could have easily alienated the audience because they are still getting to know these characters, but the two leads and their chemistry together make it work.
Laura Linney is a smart actress with a history of picking interesting projects (You Can Count on Me, The Truman Show and Kinsey). She’s beautiful but not in an impossibly unattainable way, like, say, Nicole Kidman. She conveys natural warmth that is disarming and engaging.
Topher Grace brings a refreshing dose of earnestness mixed with a welcome sense of humour to his role. Known mostly for his work on the goofy sitcom That ‘70s Show, he shows some dramatic chops (which he also showcased in Traffic) as an idealistic artist who loves Louise despite the significant difference in age.
As the film progresses, the layers begin to peel away and we learn more about Louise’s troubled past and the nature of her relationship with her high school sweetie. Like The Door in the Floor (2004), P.S. explores the complex relationship between an older woman and a younger man in a realistic fashion free of the usual Hollywood cliches. Ultimately, Kidd’s movie poses the question, what happens when you are haunted by something that happened to you and that you don’t want to let go of and move on as conventional wisdom tells us to do? There are no easy answers to this question and P.S. wisely leaves it up to the audience to decide.
There is an audio commentary by Dylan Kidd and the film’s cinematographer Joaquin Baca-Asay. Not surprisingly Kidd dominates the track and starts off dissecting the film in terms of character and its themes. Baca-Asay points out that the sex scene plays out in real time and with a variety of emotions as opposed to being about one thing as is often the case in most movies.
Also included is a theatrical trailer.
Finally, there are five deleted scenes with optional commentary by Kidd. Included is more footage of Linney and Marcia Gay Harden’s characters. Most scenes were cut for reasons of pacing and Kidd puts them in their proper context.