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'P.S.' friends can help

Irish or not, some gals have all the luck; guys, too. In "P.S. I Love You," a poignant and entertaining look at modern widowhood, we get to meet that urban rarity -- a couple married young, with no money, who take their chances and appear happy beyond belief.

Too good to be true? Sure it is.

After losing the husband she'd married at 19, Holly Kennedy (a stiff but likable Hilary Swank) truly seems lost. Knowing how devastated his wife would be (he was ill for some time), Gerry Kennedy (a superb Gerard Butler) has planned ahead: He leaves her a series of love letters, encouraging her to "get out" and "move on."

Barely 30 and alone in Manhattan, Holly discovers this is easier said than done. She hides from the world and is left to wonder "What does he mean" by all these constant reminders of a happier time.

When best friend Denise (a delightful, hilarious Lisa Kudrow) gently tells her "You have to stop wanting him at some point," Holly rejects her too.

She is painfully stuck in that zone where it's not only difficult to remember, but more so trying to forget.

Like a loyal lapdog, close buddy Daniel (Harry Connick Jr.), is always there: the supportive listening ear who'll tell you both what you need to hear and what you want to hear. Far from polished, Connick nonetheless sparkles and enthralls with every line. As Daniel, he spends his days "flirting in good faith" but remains a reliable and ready shoulder for his widowed friend. When he asks Holly, "What do women want?" he sounds genuine. Holly's disappointingly honest response: "We have no idea."

Gerry should probably be cloned. Although dead 10 minutes into the film, Butler's character nonetheless remains a presence throughout, constantly charming Holly and everyone around her with his selfless forethought and kindness.

For instance, besides the romantic letters, he arranges for Holly and her mom (Kathy Bates) to visit his homeland -- rural Ireland. Bates -- strong, yet just vulnerable enough to stay believable -- is wonderful as Holly's hardworking, seen-it-all mom. Trying to console her lonely daughter, she theorizes, "If we're all alone, then we're all together in that, too!" And, it works.

Holly begins to emerge from her solitude, embracing new places, new endeavors, even new men. The most promising: a hunky pub musician (the irresistibly adorable Jeffrey Dean Morgan), rendered even more appealing by his childhood friendship with Gerry.

Yet for skeptics like me, the most agreeable of all are Holly's two best friends. Kudrow is terrific as Denise, the confident, sexy and sexist dame who doesn't know the meaning of the word hesitate and sees every gorgeous guy as a future conquest. Gina Gershon, as the sensible, soft-spoken pal, is also a treat.

Sure, it's mushy, and the "Take your chances now, because you never know what's around the bend" message is a bit heavy-handed. Nonetheless, the warm, feel-good vibe comes without any pretense, special effects or plot devices; just pleasant grown-ups dealing with real life, real loss, and actually getting rewarded with real happiness. It's reality wrapped in bittersweet love and comforting humor.

So it's a chick-flick. P.S. the guys might enjoy it too. Take a chance.

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