Don't Hit on a Dead Dude's Wife, No Matter What 'P.S. I Love You' Tells You

You Had Me At Hell No dissects the 2007 Hilary Swank rom-com that tries to convince us that a woman mourning her husband is fair game for dating.
Alex Zaragoza
Brooklyn, US
March 24, 2020, 6:34pm
P.S. I Love You
Credit: Moviestore Collection/Shutterstock
You Had Me At Hell No dissects the toxic tropes and ridiculous relationship models of some of the most beloved rom-coms.

Based on Cecelia Ahern's 2004 debut novel, P.S. I Love You has all the components of a standard "chick flick:" romance, a little sentimentality with some laughs sprinkled in, and some sort of beach or water scene. P.S. I Love You delivers all that, adding a dash of what-the-fuckery in the form of a questionable romantic interest and some not-so-great ideas of what constitutes a romantic relationship.

The Plot

The film opens up with Holly (Hilary Swank) angrily stomping down the dark streets of New York City's Lower East Side, as Gerry (Gerard Butler) tries to keep up, grilling her on why she's so upset as they make their way into their apartment. Turns out, she's pissed that Gerry told Holly's mom that Holly isn't ready to have a baby, which leads to a huge screaming match that features a shoe being thrown, a possible break-up, and of course, an impassioned make-up.

Turns out, this is all a flashback, a snapshot of Holly and Gerry Kennedy's life as a young married couple before Gerry died. Holly is a 29-year-old widow, whose charming Irish rascal of a husband died from a brain tumor. To help her cope with her grief, Gerry arranged a series of letters to be sent to Holly before he died so she could move on and find a fulfilling life without him. As she opens each letter, following his dying wishes (which include doing karaoke and getting wasted on her 30th birthday), Holly begins to work past the death of her husband. During all this, a hot, weird bartender (Harry Connick Jr.) tries to woo her to no avail. Then Holly goes on a trip to Ireland arranged by Gerry and meets a sexy singer/farmhand (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) who ends up being Gerry's childhood best friend, a fact she learns while she's in bed with him. Holly is, apparently, very into swarthy Irish guys. In the end, she finds her calling designing ugly, over-embellished shoes and later runs into the sexy singer again on another trip to Ireland, opening the door to love again. It's a small world in rom-com land!

The Hell No

P.S. I Love You is a slight shift to the typical rom-com narrative, namely because the object of the protagonist's affections is already her husband and he's dead. Also, it's tone is a little off, teetering between being a rom-com with some drama and a romantic plotline that's kind of funny, but never fully lands. Even so, it's a movie you want to watch on day one of your period, where the thought of gently sobbing about love and loss while eating globs of brownie ice cream and a side of Spicy Nacho Doritos sounds right on time. It's a hormonal hell yeah.

While P.S. I Love You hits that soft spot of losing your great love, much of its premise is straight-up icky up but framed as romantic. For 80 percent of the movie, you're led to believe that Holly and the bartender, Daniel, who is not very chill about wanting her to get over Gerry so he can swoop in, belong together. Then, when we're about to see Holly give in to Daniel, the director pulls a standard rom-com narrative trope: the nevermind kiss. It's that thing where the protagonist has to quickly realize that she doesn't want to be with the guy she thinks she wants, and she discovers this when she finally kisses him and feels nothing. This leads her to chase after the more suitable love interest. (See also: Jane and George's kiss in 27 Dresses.) After their nevermind kiss, Holly decides to stick to ugly shoe design (no, really, these shoes are hideous). But, why on god's weed factory known as earth would anyone even consider dating a dude who literally hits on them while they're drunk crying in a closet next to their husband's urn? It shouldn't have taken a kiss for Holly to figure this out.

Ok, So Why Is That So Bad?

Very little about this movie is actually romantic! Aside from the nice letters from the dead husband, it's mostly creepy and pretty predatory. Who told the filmmakers to set up a guy hitting on the dead dude's widow at the dead dude's wake as a viable romantic interest? Ew. His diarrhea of the mouth and persistent attempts at cuffing Holly are framed as personality quirks, but they are most certainly not. This is someone disrespecting another person's grief and pain for their own sexual and romantic gain, which is next-level gross and morbid. But, hey, maybe the forthcoming sequel will get it right.

Bonus Round

Holly and Gerry are a couple who conflate fighting with passion. Anyone who saw the last season of The Bachelor knows that's a problem. These two soul mates built their relationship on arguing over inane issues. Every one of their relationship flashbacks, with the exception of when they met, involves a fight, or how hot the two were for each other. Even Holly realizes that the constant fighting was stupid. Please don't wait until your partner is dead to stop yelling at them over nonsense. Fighting and then fucking your way through a relationship is one way to create some awkward fetishes. Also, no amount of acting will ever convince me that notorious Hollywood fuckboy Gerard Butler is a doting husband.

In Conclusion

While P.S. I Love You is solid hormonal viewing, it's important to remember that hitting on a dead person's spouse within days of that spouse dying is just a bad move. You wouldn't like it if Cheryl, the babely senior next door, went after your dad a month after your mom died, and it's no better when Harry Connick Jr. does it. Keep it in your pants, creep.

Alex Zaragoza is a senior staff writer at VICE. You can follow her on Twitter.