1 November 2004 | george.schmidt
Familiar Face of Love Past - Linney & Grace shine
P.S. (2004) *** Laura Linney, Topher Grace, Gabriel Byrne, Marcia Gay Harden, Lois Smith, Paul Rudd. (Dir: Dylan Kidd) Familiar Face of Love Past What would you make of a supreme case of déjà vu in the form of someone reminding you of your first and only true love? That's the question that troubles 39 year old Columbia Art School admissions officer Louise Harrington (Linney making a truly complex role seem so natural) an unhappy with life divorcée who stumbles upon one last letter of her daily sorting with the return address of an F. Scott Feinstadt, which triggers her recollection of her late high school boyfriend with virtually the same moniker.
Provoked to her curiosity she calls the applicant on the phone and as a ploy sets up an interview where with baited breath she must face the inevitable: it may really be her reincarnated love nearly 20 years past.
Feinstadt (Grace proving to be his generation's Tom Hanks) is an easy-going very comfortable in his old skin type who plunks down to the proceedings unaware of the special needs scrutiny he's experiencing as Louise is overcome by how uncanny he is and clumsily asks him out leading to a frankly adult encounter they have sex back at her apartment which unleashes a newly unbridled Louise to accept the unbelievable and the two begin to fall for one another, only with Louise on guard with the weird encounter giving her pause to reflect upon the failure of her marriage to her best friend Peter (the underplayed rumpled Byrne) who she discovers after the fact that he had cheated on her during their time together leading her to believe her entire life has been a lie. On top of this her only confidantes her retired caring mother (Smith) and her girlhood pal (and competition) Missy Goldberg (Harden) who lives on the West Coast, married with children and equally miserable- have grown weary of her doldrums. Adding to the mix is her younger ne'er-do-well brother Sammy fresh out of rehab and seemingly up to his old tricks.
Director Kidd, who helmed the indie gem 'ROGER DODGER', adapted the story by Helen Schulman's novel, has his work cut out for him in equalizing the main character's plight and the budding love affair into a solid relationship without it becoming a Lifetime Original Movie which at times it teeters into, yet injecting it with some humor and heart. But the solid acting of Linney who I admit has taken some time to admit she's a fine actress and surprising chops of Grace raise the level from a one-note What If scenario to a sweet, sexy romance meant to be. Linney's Louise feels like a second cousin to her breakthrough role in 'YOU CAN COUNT ON ME' in the sense that both women are at an emotional crossroads in their lives that could lead to even more dire lanes of despair but the chosen path they endeavor in fact strengthens them with newfound confidence and self-worth. Don't we all aspire to just that?