With fall unofficially underway, millions of recent college graduates have begun to realize that the lives they had planned do not mesh with what the real world has in store. For some grads, the malaise that sets in can last for years, causing them to wonder why they even bothered going to college, especially when their 20-year-old boss at the Dairy Queen never even took the SAT.
So for people who are frustrated about the uncertainty of a future that was supposed to pan out better, here is the movie for you. In 2009, director Vicky Jenson (Shrek) brought rookie screenwriter Kelly Fremon’s autobiographical-ish script to life to create something that will make depressed college grads feel like they might still have a bright future even if they do mediocre work.
Post Grad, the comedy about a recent college alumna forced to move back home when she doesn’t get her dream job, does not make life after college seem navigable with the right guidance. Instead, it makes the audience wonder how so many people (who probably went to college) could screw up a movie with such an accessible premise and gifted cast.
In the film, Alexis Bledel (Gilmore Girls, Sin City) plays Ryden Malby, the doe-eyed Bachelor of English with sights set on a career in publishing. As one of Hollywood’s most understated young actresses, Bledel does her best to play a character whose lifelong determination somehow blinds her to making practical decisions like making sure you actually have a job before you go apartment hunting or believing she could afford her own loft apartment in Los Angeles on an entry-level salary. Hopefully audiences won’t associate the character flaws in this movie with Bledel’s ability to perform, because Bledel is definitely an admirable lipstick for this pig of a movie.
As for the rest of the cast, it seems like the film’s budget went to them instead of to rewrites. Jane Lynch and Michael Keaton play Carmella and Walter, Ryden’s parents. However, their proven command of the screen goes unrealized, and there’s no apparent reason why that had to happen. Carmella’s plotline in the film could have focused on her struggle to relate to her energetic and clingy son Hunter. But the only scene where they have a conversation about not licking kids’ heads seemed more like an ad lib that Lynch put in to have some fun, rather than Fremon’s attempt at funny B-plot.
Walter’s relationship with Ryden gets a bit more screen time than the above mentioned pair, but not in a way that uses Keaton’s strengths. Any actor with marginal ability could have depicted the awkward dynamic between a father and his young adult daughter as written in Post Grad. So to put a script in front of an actor like Michael Keaton that makes it look like he’s almost phoning it in is downright insulting.
The grossest misuse of comedic talent, though, comes in the form of Grandma Maureen played by Carol Burnett. As the matriarch of the Malby clan, one would think that the most valuable conventional wisdom would come from her, with Burnett’s unparalleled wit woven into the mix. Instead, Burnett mills about, stepping in to be the butt of a joke about old sick people until she can go back to her trailer and wonder why her character lacks the dimension that a legend deserves.
And instead of Ryden getting advice from the person who’s been alive the longest, the character who imparts the most wisdom to Ryden is David, the 34-year-old Brazilian neighbor on whom she has an understandable crush. Nothing against Rodrigo Santoro (you know, the guy from the season 3 cast of Lost whose death had absolutely no bearing on the show’s story arc), but his character’s influence on how Ryden reflects on life clashes sharply with…oh…the lip service he pays to a smart impressionable girl he wants to screw. Anyone involved with the making of this film who thought an audience would respect the undue importance of David’s advice has no business telling stories for money.
Jenson and Fremon managed to turn a once-in-a-lifetime cast into an ensemble of expendable parts of a weak whole. While it could be considered unfair to judge a movie on its failure to reach subjective potential, Post Grad leave viewers no choice, especially viewers who know the genius of which Lynch, Keaton, and Burnett are capable.
So chin up, quarter-lifers! Not only has Marz Daily Media saved you 88 minutes that you’ll need for emailing resumes, but those of you who are budding screenwriters also now know that the “write hot; edit cold” approach isn’t always necessary to sell a script that undermines the talent hired to perform it. You, too, can someday pat yourself on the back for making a movie that could have been a heartwarming tale about the transitional periods we all face but instead is a run-of-the-mill, two-dimensional, angst-ridden waste of everyone’s time.
SPOILER ALERT: In the end, Ryden winds up getting her dream job, but she quits in less than a month to move to New York and win the heart of her best friend for whom she’s never had romantic feelings. And she does this without even calling him first! And that’s the moral with which the audience is supposed to come away? That people you take for granted will just drop everything the moment you come to your senses and appreciate the good things you have instead of constantly worrying about what you don’t have? At this rate, Ryden will never learn. And with the positive reinforcement of a purchased script, it’s doubtful that Fremon will, either.