Saturday, June 30, 2012

Charming But Completely Predictable, Post Grad Fills In The End Of Summer Blahs.

The Good: Moments of laughs, Generally good casting, Moments of charm
The Bad: Entirely predictable, Editing, Incongruent moments with main plotline.
The Basics: Barely fun, Post Grad flops as the subject is not enough to sustain itself, so it frequently digresses.

[Note: This originally was written upon the movie’s release, hence the dated references! Enjoy!]

As the end of summer comes, I find myself considering just what it takes for a film to participate in Summer Blockbuster Season. Every year, it seems, there are a few big surprises or a few sleeper hits and the longer Post Grad went on, the more I felt like it was this year's Swing Vote (reviewed here!). Swing Vote arrived in theaters last year with little fanfare, died at the box office and was generally a mediocre film that was predictable and understated and entirely average. Post Grad is essentially this summer's Swing Vote, replacing the message on the importance of voting with an exploration on the difficulties in the economy today.

Unfortunately for those who like romantic comedies or thematic comedies, Post Grad is far too scattered and predictable to be truly enjoyable and while it has some laughs and moments that garner smiles, it is essentially a failure. This is yet another movie where the preview trailer shows the entire movie and yet, I went into the film with high hopes. After all, this was Alexis Bledel's big chance to open a film. I loved her in Gilmore Girls (reviewed here!) and have been waiting to see what she would do on the big screen. Alas, the film starts out with Bledel playing her new character, Ryden Malby in a very Rory-esque way and the movie stagnates and wanders far too much.

Ryden Malby is graduating from college, trumped by her childhood nemesis for valedictorian, and she is surrounded by her loving family and platonic friend, Adam. Ryden has big plans and after signing a $3,500 check for her ideal loft, she goes to interview for her dream job at Happerman & Browning publishers. En route to her interview, she and Adam get into a car accident and she finds herself competing against several other candidates just like her. When her nemesis, Jessica Bard, gets her ideal job, Ryden is forced to move back in with her father, mother, grandmother and weird younger brother.

While Adam quietly pursues Ryden romantically - all the while feeling out his own musical career and debating going to law school on the East Coast - Ryden and her father try to find a path for the new college graduate. This puts Ryden working for her father, both at his luggage store and a shady startup as a belt buckle distributor, while she tries to get a better job. When her father accidentally kills the neighbor's cat, the chance encounter leads Ryden to a job as a p.a. and puts Ryden's heart in play and her future in uncertain territory.

The fundamental problem with Post Grad is that it is a comedy and that there isn't enough material to make a comedy out of the subject. Writer Kelly Fremon attempts to flesh out a script about an overachiever's flailing life after college and the film fails to stick with that. As a result, minutes burn by - not with Ryden-related romantic subplots, which are ridiculous and predictable enough - with cat poop jokes focused on Ryden's father, Walter, a weird bit involving Ryden's mother advising her younger brother to stop licking kid's heads at school and the whole belt buckle enterprise subplot. While these might flesh out the Malby family well, they completely distract the viewer from the movement of the film and the growth of Ryden into an actualized character.

As a result, Post Grad struggles to be funny and stay focused, creating an erratic story where Ryden is a fairly ambitious young woman surrounded by a family that is anything but like her. Her family is funny and Ryden is relegated to the straightman of the family and the film runs out of steam and runs out of plot well before the seventy-nine minute running time is exhausted. As a result, much of the movie is not focused on Ryden's struggle to enter the working world, but pointless digressions like her father's arrest and a soapbox derby race.

What Post Grad does have is a lot of charm and excellent casting. Alexis Bledel even performs well as Ryden more and more as the movie progresses. She and costar Zach Gilford have great on-screen chemistry and the scenes between Ryden and Adam "read" as entirely real. Gilford holds his own in the scenes they share and they insinuate in the ease of their body language a history and connoting that weight is impressive by young actors. Similarly, Bledel and Michael Keaton play well off one another. Keaton plays Walter and he is hilarious as the off-kilter father figure. Jane Lynch and Carol Burnett round out the cast well, though this represents the only bit of poor casting for the main characters. While Keaton and Bledel look like they could be related, Burnett plays Walter's mother, when she and Lynch bear a more striking resemblance.

The only real dud on the acting front is Rodrigo Santoro, whose tenure on the screen is mercifully short. Santoro and Bledel have no chemistry as Ryden and her next door neighbor and their scenes are excruciating in the way they are drawn out. Santoro's role is designed to keep open the age-old paradigm that forces a woman to choose between two men and realize that the man she wants is the one who was with her all along. Unfortunately, Post Grad does not even try to put up the pretense of surprising the viewer. This film is one of the most predictable ones to come down the pike in a long time.

As well, the editing in Post Grad is sloppy; I noticed several bad cuts throughout the movie and this is death to a movie that was already struggling to fill the minimum necessary airtime. For example, when the soapbox derby race begins, Hunter Malby's car that is brought to the starting line is clearly a different vehicle in the first shot than it is in subsequent shots.

On a strangely contrary note, the humor that is generated by the subplots and random humor elements - the headlicking bit especially - are actually some of the film's most enjoyable moments. The problem is that they just don't fit the particular movie the viewer went in to see. If this were "Meet The Malbys" it would be one thing, but it is supposed to be a comedy about the struggles one suffers after college and these scenes - most notably one where Grandma Malby takes the family coffin shopping - just do not fit.

The result is an awkward film that does not quite seem to know what it wants to be and it flounders in a way that makes it drag, despite not being a particularly long movie to begin with. That combination of lack of focus and predictability make one wonder how Fremon and director Vicky Jenson got the movie made. As it is, despite the fact that they did get it made - and with a respectable cast - ought not be encouragement for others to try or for audiences to flock to see it. And for those of us who love Alexis Bledel's works . . . we have confidence she'll get into a better project next time.

For other works with J.K. Simmons, be sure to check out my reviews of:
I Love You, Man
Spider-Man 3
Thank You For Smoking
Spider-Man 2


For other movie reviews, please visit my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2012, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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