Based on Cecelia Ahern's popular first novel, published when she was only 21, Richard LaGravenese's sentimental comedy drama about a young widow learning to get on with her life mines every shameless chick flick cliche imaginable.
High-strung New Yorker Holly (Hilary Swank) and her laid-back Irish husband, Gerry (Gerard Butler), love each other deeply, though they argue about everything: Her inability to keep a job (she can't work for idiots) and addiction to designer duds, his take-it-as-it-comes attitude, their families' disapproval (both think they married too young -- she was 19, he was 24) and the fact that he wants to have children and she's not ready, in part because they can "hardly turn around" in their ridiculously spacious and impeccably stylish Chinatown loft. Then he dies suddenly of a brain tumor. Holly has the unwavering support of her mother, working-class barkeep Patricia (Kathy Bates), wacky sister Ciara (singer-songwriter Nellie McKay) and sassy best girlfriends, husband-hunting Denise (Lisa Kudrow) and sensible Sharon (Gina Gershon), who's married to Gerry's best friend (James Marsters); she even has a not-so-secret admirer in eccentric bartender Daniel (Harry Connick Jr.), who works for her mom. But she's too bereft to cope and holes up in her apartment, watching old movies, singing along to Judy Garland tearjerkers and neglecting her personal hygiene until her horrified family and friends arrive to throw her a surprise 30th-birthday party. Then comes the real surprise: The mysterious arrival of a cake and a tape-recorded message from Gerry. Despite his advancing illness, Gerry wrote Holly a series of letters and arranged for their posthumous delivery over the course of the next year, each missive directing her to do something that will restore her joie de vivre, help her follow her bliss and allow her to move on.
It's easy to blame both the story's dismally clichéd characterizations and swoony ridiculousness, built on too many nuts-and-bolts absurdities to count, on Ahern's youth. But she clearly tapped into a potent romantic fantasy. If you can refrain from wondering how Holly avoids working for a year when she and Gerry were struggling financially, or how Gerry paid for Holly, Lisa and Sharon's luxury trip to Ireland -- let alone coordinated every aspect of her healing journey, including a restorative fling with old pal and band mate William (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), who just happens to be playing Holly and Gerry's song when she and her posse venture into a small Irish pub -– then it may be possible to surrender to the tale's weepy life lessons. If you can't, it's tough going relieved only by some lovely Irish scenery. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh