On Monday, December 17th, at Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville, Hilary Swank appeared as part of the center's annual Silverstar fundraiser with her most recent film, "P.S. I Love You." Rolling in a little late to the nervousness of the audience and the program's organizers, she let everyone easily settle into the shoes of a busy actress playing her other role as film promoter. "There was a lot of traffic on that little Saw Mill highway," she said in bringing the audience back to a festive mood.
From there, whatever angst that remained was quickly replaced by appreciation, as she revealed to New York Times film critic Janet Maslin and the audience what awaited her after dinner was served upstairs. "I go to sleep and wake up in a new country," she said of a typical day and this night's later flight to Ireland.
Giving new meaning to the term air mattress, she takes the strains of a life she loves in stride - even when promotion goes transatlantic. She just goes back to being nine years old and remembering her dreams whenever jet set meets jet lag.
This movie involves several time zones and an ocean because the film is based on a novel written by the daughter of the Irish Prime Minister, Bertie Ahern. It also comes with a welcome change of pace for Ms. Swank in role that some might think better to Julia Roberts.
Good romantic comedies are hard to find, she said, "So I don't really come to mind, I've played a boxer and a boy." But "P.S. I Love You" definitely contains an element of sadness throughout that cannot be escaped before it ultimately uplifts. That appealed to her because, she says, "There's something about laughing through your tears."
It starts out the typical marriage going through growing pains - at least in terms of Ms. Swank's character. Trying to find her identity, she can't find meaning with what she has in the relationship until she decides on a career. From that, she hopes children and a bigger apartment will make the difference she is looking for.
Conversely, her husband played by Gerard Butler, is content to live in his music and wait for life to happen to him. It appears the argument is an old one that follows no rational course, but of course, he's able to elevate her above her fears and set things right through another crisis.
Then, with only one scene completed and the opening credits just finished, we find out he has died of a brain tumor, but he's definitely not forgotten. After the funeral, a birthday cake with a recorded message arrives from her dead husband - detailing how future messages, written prior to his death, will help her transition to a new life and someday a new love.
It works on her with heart-warming effect but also confines her to a life that no longer exists. Around the grieving and giddy widow, her friends are moving on, while the character played by Harry Connick Jr. awaits her in this life. The story moves in and out of the present and ends in a twist that doesn't follow the traditional formula.
So how does Ms. Swank know she has found a script that works for her? Difficult to explain, she says, "It's just something that I feel."
And what she once felt was the pain of being an outsider. Coming from a financially disadvantaged upbringing, she experienced classism but not from her peers. "Parents didn't want me playing with their kids," she says, and from that, she has continued to seek out stories that focus on the outsider.
Two Oscars later, it seems that only the success remains. "I'm living my dream," she says, and playing Amelia Earhart is next, which was a revelation that delighted the audience and Ms. Maslin. "You're the one actress who could play that toughness and still be so beautiful," said the film critic.
Ms. Swank only exhibited shy graciousness with the compliment and went on to describe a screenplay at which a great love story is at its center. "She was a great role model but very human," said Ms. Swank.
Something that gets lost in the shuffle when it comes to being a celebrity today. "I'm an actor not a celebrity, so I try to be surround myself with people who care and let all that tabloid stuff slide off my back," she concluded.
Rich Monetti coverage of Hilary Swank appearance at Jacob Burns Film Center.