by Tony Medley
directorial debut was Roger Dodger (2002), a brilliant story of a
hot New York bachelor who sets out to mentor his nephew resulting in a
role reversal, which made my list of ten best films of the year. It was
a highly moral tale of a profligate.
His second film is p.s.
This time it’s about a woman and, despite the fact that it is again
brilliantly directed, it’s morality is the antithesis of the basis of Roger
Dodger. Louise Harrington (Laura
Linney) is a 39 year old divorcee working in Columbia University’s
Admissions Department. She receives an application for admission to
graduate school from 24 year old artist F. Scott Feinstadt (Topher
Grace), calls him in for an interview, and seduces him almost
immediately. We are in the dark as to why Louise is so emotionally
attracted to F. Scott until near the end of the movie and I’m not
going to spoil it by revealing the reason here.
Suffice it to say,
Louise’s relationship with a student applicant is sexual harassment per
se. If the situation were reversed, and F. Scott was working for the
admissions department and Louise was an applicant 15 years younger, F.
Scott’s sexual conquest would be seen as reprehensible. This movie
would be about the exploitation of a younger woman by a powerful man. So
it should be with the actual relationship in the movie. There’s no
justification for an older woman taking sexual advantage of a younger
man who is in her power. But there is nothing censorious in the film
about Louise’s actions.
I am opposed to
product placements in movies. Walmart must have contributed big bucks to
the making of Looney Tunes: Back in Action last year, because
there was an incomprehensible scene of a big Walmart’s in the middle
of a desert. The tobacco companies must have contributed to p.s. because
Louise lights up in several scenes. There’s a scene near the end of
the film that looks like it came from the ‘40s, when tobacco companies
also contributed to films’ budgets to ensure that everyone smoked
(remember Bette Davis and Paul Henreid in Now, Voyager (1942)
when he lights up two cigarettes, one for him, one for her, after making
love?). Louise and her best friend, Missy Goldberg (Marcia Gay Harden)
both light up. Missy says she’s given it up, but then produces a pack
to the evident delight of both. It made my eyes water and throat hurt
just to see them blowing smoke into the air. There’s a fulsomeness in
any filmmaker who inserts smoking scenes into a movie. Kidd is better
characters of both Louise and F. Scott are incredible. F. Scott is an
applicant to a graduate school that is hard to get into. Yet when Louise
calls him to establish contact and tell him she wants him to come in for
an interview, he acts as if he is in total control, and speaks to her as
if he’s picking her up in a bar. He has far more confidence in himself
than a normal person would have in that situation.
is even more unrealistic, a 39 year old professional, intellectually
superior woman instantly attracted to someone 15 years her junior. While
this might happen and might be many women’s fantasy, the way its
presented here one must conclude she’s mentally unbalanced. It’s
equally unrealistic to think that a young stud like F. Scott would have
the slightest interest in someone who must appear matronly to him. It
would make more sense if each were using the other for selfish purposes,
but they aren’t.
Everyone in this
film has problems. Louise’s former husband, Peter (Gabriel Byrne), is
a sex addict. Her brother Sammy Silverstein (Paul Rudd), is a recovering
drug addict. Why Louise has Missy as her best friend is a mystery since
Missy stole Louise’s boy friend in high school and seems to view
Louise as a competitor rather than a friend.
What saves the film
is Kidd’s brilliant directing. This guy is a genius. The
cinematography and New York City locations are very well done. The
acting is terrific, especially Grace. The
music (Craig Wedren) is very good. Unfortunately,
I can’t say the same for the script (Helen Schulman, based on her
novel of the same name, and Kidd), the moral tone, and the premise.
October 8, 2004