Thursday, August 20, 2009
Review: "Post Grad"
I actually feel kind of bad about not liking "Post Grad." It's got a great bunch of actors that I enjoyed spending time with. It's directed by a woman, from an original script by a woman, and lord knows we need more of that.
But this flick about a girl trying to figure out what she wants to be struggles with its own identity crisis.
It can't decide if it wants to be about the girl's loopy family, who are all a bit weird but share tender bonds, a la "Little Miss Sunshine," or about her romantic entanglements with the close friend who clearly wants more, and a Latin neighbor who's sexy despite being a cat owner.
(On a side note, I think we need to add to the list of annoying cinematic racial stereotypes. We had the Magic Negro, in which a black character exists solely for the purpose of enlightening the white folks. Now it's the Smokin' Latin, in which a guy who rolls his R's shows up to tempt the heroine.)
Alexis Bledel plays Ryden, who's just graduated from college and can't find a job. Her plan was to land a gig at Happermann & Browning, the top publishing firm in Los Angeles, and discover the next great American novel. But her arch-nemesis, who took the valedictorian spot from her, nabs the job instead (played by Catherine Reitman, who fittingly steals every scene she's in).
Ryden is forced to move back in with her family. The roster: Dad (Michael Keaton), who's always chasing one cockamamie scheme or another; mom (Jane Lynch), who's dealing with a young son with a head-licking fetish; and grandma (Carol Burnett), who's dying (maybe) and wants to stretch out the agony for everyone else.
The scenes with Ryden growing exasperated with her relatives are a bit contrived, but are the most enjoyable. Where the film runs off the rails is whenever romance creeps in.
Adam (Zach Gilford) is Ryden's best friend who's smitten with her. Adam is trying to decide between law school and singing, and based on the one song he has in the movie I'd say he should seek out a mountain of torts and burrow in.
The normal thing for a movie like this is for the guy to hide his feelings until the end of the film, when he declares his love and the music swells. Here, Adam openly teases Ryden about how she doesn't return his affections. I credit director Vicky Jenson and screenwriter Kelly Fremon with avoiding the most obvious route, but they end up making their main character seem heartless and/or stunningly unobservant.
The Smokin' Latin (Rodrigo Santoro) lives across the street and directs infomercials, but seems OK with it, which alone should be grounds for Saint Peter to deny him the Pearly Gates.
The movie bounces back and forth between family hijinks and awkward scenes with Ryden and her suitors, with no apparent bridge between them. At one point dad gets arrested for hocking stolen belt buckles, and the younger son enters a pink coffin in a boxcar race, and I think it's in these scenes where the movie's true heart lies.
If "Post Grad" had a resume, all the lovey stuff is filler that's supposed to make it seem more appealing, but which was better left out.