The Films of Richard LaGravenese
Living Out Loud
P.S. I Love You (January 28/10)
Based on the novel by Cecelia Ahern, P.S. I Love You follows flighty twentysomething Holly (Hilary Swank) as she attempts to cope with the sudden death of her husband (Gerard Butler's Gerry) by completing a series of tasks he concocted before succumbing to cancer. There's little doubt that a large part of P.S. I Love You's success is due to the palpable connection between Swank and Butler's respective characters, as filmmaker Richard LaGravenese effectively establishes Holly and Gerry's relationship with an engrossing pre-credits, stand-alone sequence in which the couple argue (and make-up) following a family dinner. It's consequently not surprising to note that the movie is generally at its best when the two actors are sharing the screen; however, the ease with which LaGravenese cultivates a pleasantly laid-back atmosphere ensures that the remainder of the proceedings fares (almost) as well. The narrative's deliberate pace - coupled with a slightly overlong running time - ultimately prevents P.S. I Love You from possessing as consistently enthralling an atmosphere as one might've liked, although it's worth noting that the inclusion of several progressively poignant moments (ie Holly has a heartfelt chat with her mother) more than compensates for the movie's sporadically uneven sensibilities. The incredibly upbeat finale - in which virtually every single character receives their own little happy ending - cements P.S. I Love You's place as a consistently watchable romantic comedy that's certainly a far cry from its underwhelming brethren, with Swank's winning work matched by an impressive supporting cast that includes Harry Connick Jr, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and Kathy Bates (yet it's clearly Butler who walks away with the title of MVP).
Beautiful Creatures (February 10/13)
Based on the book by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, Beautiful Creatures follows high schooler Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich) as he finds himself falling for an unusual girl named Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert) - with complications ensuing as Lena's true nature is slowly-but-surely revealed (ie she possesses supernatural abilities). It's a familiar yet promising setup that could (and should) have resulted in a fun, fast-paced Twilight knockoff, but, as becomes clear almost immediately, Richard LaGravenese, working from his own screenplay, has infused the proceedings with an overpoweringly sluggish feel that's at odds with the lighthearted narrative. There's little doubt that the film does, as a result, progress at a pace that's often oppressively deliberate, with the pervasively lifeless vibe compounded by the palpable lack of chemistry between Ehrenreich and Englert - which does, as a result, prevent the viewer from working up any interest in or sympathy for their respective characters' ongoing exploits and struggles. LaGravenese attempts to compensate for the almost astonishingly drab vibe by playing up the movie's Southern gothic atmosphere, yet the filmmaker's obvious discomfort within this realm ensures that many such elements come off as laughable and lend the movie a distinctly campy sort of vibe. The end result is a hopelessly misguided attempt to cash in on Twilight's massive success, with the movie's abject failure especially disappointing given the caliber of its supporting cast (which includes, among others, Viola Davis, Emma Thompson, and Jeremy Irons).