Director: Vicky Jenson
Cast: Alexis Bledel, Zach Gilford, Michael Keaton, Jane Lynch, Bobby Coleman, Carol Burnett, Rodrigo Santoro
MPAA Rating: (for sexual situations and brief strong language)
Running Time: 1:29
Release Date: 8/21/09
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Review by Mark Dujsik
Ah, the problems of twenty-somethings in the Real(ly Fake) World. Ryden (Alexis Bledel, she of unnaturally blue eyes) graduates from college and, fresh out of the gate, lands an interview at a major publishing house.
Unfortunately, the university's valedictorian Jessica (Catherine Reitman), whom Ryden describes as her "Darth Vader since third grade," had the dean call ahead and gets poor Ryden's dream job. Without a job or the monetary means to live in her dream apartment, poor, poor Ryden is forced to move back home and live with her family.
The basic dilemma of Post Grad rings true. In broad strokes, a lot of what results from said setup is also accurate. There's certainly the frustration of having a useless degree (Here, an English major with a Communications minor). There's the constant job hunt and string of interviews. There's the loss of independence so celebrated in college. There's the fact that you've been away from your family for four years, and the realization that something just doesn't quite mesh the way it used to.
In the very broadest of terms, then, the movie gets life post-graduation right, but the problem with Kelly Fremon's screenplay is that the way it presents this crucial time-of-life is so very, very broad as to make it seem false.
That misstep is especially true given that the movie is set in the present day, amongst an incredibly troubled economy, where even the most educated of people struggle to find a job. Post Grad mainly comes across as a high schooler's perspective of what life will be like after graduating from college. Sure, it'll be tough, but everything will turn out all right and there'll sure be some kooky adventures along the way.
Ryden is particularly lucky in that, while she might not be able to get a job in the field she wants, she can find the most menial, temporary work imaginable, with the added benefit of being able to quit at any given time. Whether it's working as a production assistant for her neighbor and occasional make-out partner David (Rodrigo Santoro) or trying to sell luggage at her dad's (Michael Keaton) store, she has absolutely no problem finding something when the chips seem particularly down.
Her interviews are whittled down to a montage of changing dress clothes and one-liner interview-question answers, and all the while, the story focuses on her relationship with her movie-charmingly weird family and an annoying will-they/won't-they relationship with her best friend Adam (Zach Gilford).
The family is crazy in that way that supposed to be endearing but, like the overall experience of the movie, comes across phony. Dad wants to start up an independent belt buckle company, which leads to a strange minor subplot with the buckles' creator and a night in jail. Grandma (Carol Burnett) is dying (Thankfully, there's no funeral scene) and has her family help her pick out a casket, which leads to a moment in which a coffin is hauled home atop the family station wagon.
Little brother (Bobby Coleman) is an odd child, who likes to lick the heads of his classmates, which leads to a bizarre moment of self-actualization for Ryden because of a boxcar race. Mom (Jane Lynch) doesn't do much, but she's certainly there when all of Ryden's family barges in on her make-out session with David. This is while the two are in David's house, mind you, and after a makeshift funeral for David's cat, which dad ran over with Ryden's car (probably the only legitimately funny absurd moment of the bunch, primarily because "Memory" from Cats accompanies the burial in a pizza box).
It's all in the name of avoiding the real issue, relying on feel-good misadventures and familial quirks instead. Let's not forget Adam, who has the distinct good fortune to have the following quandary: Go to an Ivy League law school or focus on his music. Adam, by the way, is madly in love with Ryden, who only sees him as a good friend.
We know what will happen between the two of them from the start, and the unnecessary hurdles along the way are frustrating. Even worse, though, is the ending when it finally happens, which, even amidst the rest of the counterfeit material, is the biggest fraud the movie offers up. Throwing away everything we know about her, all her hopes and dreams and aspirations, poor, poor, poor Ryden is crammed into an ending that sets feminism back yet again.
The movie has good intentions, and if one looks at it from a distance, one can see some value in those intentions. Up close, though, Post Grad is forced, and those good intentions are barely visible.
Copyright © 2009 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.