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Entries in Post Grad [2009] (1)

Sunday
Aug232009

Post Grad, 2009

A Minor in Film

I really do see everything; at least, I make an effort to see as many movies as I can, preferably in a theatre. When people ask me why I sit through movies like Bratz or Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector, I answer that every film deserves a chance. By writing off pictures without having seen them, moviegoers can deprive themselves the joy (and terror) of being surprised. This is not to say that every movie is worthwhile, but that kind of judgment can only be rendered once a film has been seen in its entirety (people who walk out of movies do not deserve to comment on them). With that out of the way, I’d like to talk about Post Grad.

From the trailers, Post Grad appears to be a workplace/wacky-family comedy for teenagers. Though the story centers around a just-graduated English Major named Ryden Malby (Gilmore GirlsAlexis Bledel), the film is not meant to appeal to anyone with an actual degree: it paints as accurate a picture of college grads as Saved By the Bell did of high school students. Ryden is an utterly bland, overly cheerful girl who dreams of being a book editor for a major publishing house. She and her lifelong, strictly platonic best friend, Adam (Zach Gilford), trek to Los Angeles for a big interview at said publisher. Along the way, Ryden puts down a $3500 security deposit (including first and last month’s rent) on a spacious, brand-new apartment with a great view of L.A. If you read that last sentence without raising an incredulous eyebrow, congratulations: you’re Post Grad’s target audience.

Though it clearly does not take place in our reality, Post Grad tries to pass itself off as a whimsical comedy about finding oneself in the real world. The problem lies in the movie’s tonal inconsistency; it is at once cute and semi-semi-plausible, and also a thud-landing farce full of misfit characters who seem to have wandered in from a sitcom block party. For instance, Ryden’s family includes a little brother whose hobby is licking people, a get-rich-quick-scheme-obsessed dad, and an allegedly on-the-verge-of-death crazy grandmother, played by Carol Burnett’s hipflask. These people are so bizarre, their neuroses so out of place and unwelcome, that they derail the entire picture just by being in it. The problem is that screenwriter Kelly Fremon takes the focus off of Ryden’s drive to get into publishing and spends the rest of the picture creating bogus scenarios for her family to stumble through. Dad runs over a neighbor’s cat; Dad gets arrested for selling stolen belt buckles; little Hunter wants to build a boxcar for the big race on Saturday. Isn’t this movie called Post Grad?

To be sure, Ryden’s identity crisis gets some screen time. We hear plenty of “If I’m not a book editor, who am I?” whining, along with plenty of clueless dissing of her best friend’s romantic advances—she opts instead to carry on a creepy flirtation with a Brazillian infomercial director (Rodrigo Santoro)—all with Alexis Bledel’s poorly acted robo-theatrics. Yeah, I said it. Alexis Bledel can’t act. Sorry for the tangent here, but if you subtract Gilmore Girls and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants—which provided strong ensemble performers to mask the stench—you’re left with Sin City and this movie, in which she has the delivery of a Gap model reading a teleprompter with a two-inch-wide screen. It’s a hard thing to say, honestly, because Bledel seems earnest enough, and she’s button-cute, but in the end, she didn’t have the charisma to make me overlook the by-the-numbers screenplay (SPOILER: Ryden and Adam end up together) or the ever-shifting point of her film.

Post Grad reminded me a lot of Better Off Dead, one of my favorite movies. The key difference is that Better Off Dead is a farce, but it is also a keenly observant comedy about teenage alienation—imagine John Hughes writing a MAD Magazine parody of one of his own films. Post Grad seems to want the same thing out of its story, but neither the writer nor director Vicky Jenson have the deft touch necessary to establish the movie as ridiculous and then gradually surprise their audience with heart. They instead have chosen to begin with plausibility and then hastily devolve into a story that no one can relate to on an intellectual or emotional level—which is important for both comedy and farce.

If the film has one thing to offer audiences, it’s Michael Keaton, who plays Ryden’s father, Walter Malby. When he’s not dreaming up novelty belt buckles or building boxcars out of coffins, Keaton is quite endearing and believable as a loving, suburban dad. Unfortunately, the minutes he’s given to actually act in Post Grad are probably equal to those you’ve spent reading this review; which encapsulates the movie's central flaw: it has real things to say to an audience that might actually want to hear them, but the filmmakers, apparently, don’t believe that. Perhaps someone should educate them.