directed by Vicky Jenson
starring Alexis Bledel, Zach Gilford, Michael Keaton, Carol Burnett
Fox Atomic, Cold Spring Pictures, The Montecito Picture Company
Ryden Malbry (Bledel) just missed making valedictorian at her college graduation, but she anticipates a high-paying, high-pressure job in the LA publishing scene until her longtime nemesis, Jessica (Catherine Reitman), snatches that away from her as well. The insult is doubled as her emo boyfriend, Adam (Gilford), gets accepted to Columbia law school and all her other friends get Rhodes scholarships, Nobel prizes, and guest host shots on The Tonight Show. Not all is lost, however, Ryden is bright, driven and blessed with a hot body, perky breasts and eyes so blue you’ll swear they were colored in post-production. Her wacky yet supportive family encourages her to apply for a day job while marshmallowy Adam debates Columbia or a life of playing Alt Rock just off the Strip. While he agonizes, Ryden hooks up with the only really interesting mook in this gentle comedy, Brazilian Infomercial director David Santiago (Rodrigo Santoro). Then we stumble into an impossibly happy ending.
Yes, we are in an era of diminished expectations, and while real estate prices plummet, so does the value of a tight, conflict-driven plot. Ryden doesn’t get what she wants, but she finds out it’s not what she really wanted anyway. Her story plays out against a tapestry of pleasantly wacked-out comic actors doing pleasantly wacked-out comedy. Her dad, Walter (Keaton), gets called a moron, but is surprisingly skilled at body work and soapbox derby design. Grandma Maureen (Burnett) seems wasted in this film — she gets a few yuks but mostly comes across as the Poster Woman for “Why not to have plastic surgery.” Her 7-year-old brother, Hunter (Bobby Coleman), gets off on licking other kids’ heads, while Plan B boyfriend, David, is the only real cool dude in LA, even if he keeps a soccer ball on hand at all times, lest you forget he’s from Rio De Janeiro. What’s missing is a sharp conflict to drive Ryden forward. While she is always a bit short, she never lacks an at least respectable alternative, and after 87 minutes of perfunctory disappointments, God drops a machine into the plot to rescue her from her mild case of conflict and she ends up with Mr. Emo. I was hoping she’d get to go to Carnival at least once.
While the story was stock and most of the characters corrugated cardboard, there were some brilliant moments. Keaton’s cat burying scene doubled me up and was worth at least half the ticket price. Potentially sappy Hunter supplies some professional surrealism, and Mom Malbry (Jane Lynch) held the calm center, not that she was pushed or pulled that hard. Maybe the problem is buried in the mishandled literary symbolism — Ryden had multiple opportunities to fall into water but never did. She stood on a diving board with Adam, floated on David’s clear plastic inflate-o-couch, and even played soccer with him at the beach, but no hero amounts to anything if they don’t go under the water or under the ground, and Ryden kept herself from ever getting mussed up or even a bit dirty. That’s just my theory, but here’s the skinny: Post Grad is a comedy with some nice laughs, but no heart.
Post Grad: www.foxsearchlight.com/postgrad