When you go a-courtin’, there’s a thin line between picking a film that’s slightly disturbing but kind of titillating and a film that screams, “You are so not getting laid tonight.” To avoid disaster, sometimes you must parse the subtlest of differences. For instance, last year, there was a strange sub-genre of Middle-Aged Women Being Freaked Out By the Death of a Lover/Son and Becoming Strangely Attracted to Someone Who Looks Like Said Lover/Son. And for the most part, these films are very, very bad date movies.
In Birth, Nicole Kidman desperately craved the love of a little blank-faced cherub who reminded her of her dead husband — so much that she climbed into the bathtub with him, naked. This is a bad date movie, even if you’re not dating a toddler.
In The Door in the Floor, Kim Bassinger fucked a teenage boy toy that her husband generously brought home to her. And she fucked him while she cried and stared morosely at a framed picture of her dead son that hung above the bed. This is an extremely bad date movie.
P.S. is the third and best of this bizarre trifecta of films directed by men about needy, delusional women. Dylan Kidd’s spastic drama stars Laura Linney as a Columbia University admissions officer who begins to believe that a young, cocky applicant (Topher Grace) is the reincarnation of her dead husband. I’m still not sure that this plotline isn’t some malignant cultural wart, but I am sure Kidd’s still got the goods he debuted in Rodger Dodger. He can write men like few others, shifting from cocky bravado to skittish deflection in a single line. At first, the romance between the two plays dorkily romantic: “That was awesome!” Grace enthuses after a sweaty bout of sex, and Linney’s face says it all: What the fuck am I doing with this kid?
The film’s gimmicky as hell, brutal in parts, and inclined to slapstick and tart punchlines — and that’s why it works, because, unlike Birth or The Door in the Floor, this film never settles for even one character that’s merely a stand-in varietal of Grief or Mid-Life Crisis or Childlike Spookiness — and, unlike the other two, it’s damn funny (a big help when you try to pull off such overwrought conceits). The halting seduction sequences are alternately bumbling-hilarious and nearly abusive, but there’s a kind of gritty, tempered optimism that runs through the film: hard-ass, smart-ass romanticism that is Kidd’s signature. And that leaves you feeling hopeful, not merely creeped out. — Logan Hill