Having grown up within a proudly intellectual and prodigiously creative family, the quirky desktop-video sequence that introduces Vicky Jenson’s Post Grad gave me a glimmer of hope that I would find kinship with its heroine, Ryden Malby (Alexis Bledel). She’s young, with the face of a blushing porcelain doll and the coltish posture of a newborn adult trying to find her way in the world. Harkening from a close-knit clan of Malbys, she determined her life’s exact path in childhood, and followed it flawlessly; as if to cast herself apart from her eccentric parentage. But alas, a character with the potential to draw empathetic nods manages only to elicit fleeting moments of interest strewn between awkward performances, stilted dialogue, and a hare-brained sequence of events (which only incidentally resembles something akin to a story).
Do we care that Ryden’s rivalry with an perpetually lemon-puckered classmate stems from nothing other than dueling grades and work ethic? Hasn’t it been established that she is mature enough to deflect the sourpuss’ snide and entirely bland remarks? Or is it their conveniently converging interest in the editorial profession that fuels their mutual dislike? Miss Bledel’s wide-eyed huffing and puffing never makes this clear. It is a nervous tick she seems to exhibit an awful lot. Maybe her parade-of-awkward-job-interviews montage would have been more fruitful if she’d learned to breathe through her nose.
The men in this film are incomprehensible. Michael Keaton’s flailing performance as the bumbling-but-lovable dad makes us yearn for the days when he wasn’t forced to make a living playing a buffoon. His candid and crotchety mother (Carol Burnett) perfectly echoes our frustration, strafing him with rapid-fire tongue-lashings. There are moments of bliss that we aren’t gifted with nearly often enough. Ryden’s younger brother Hunter (Bobby Coleman) appears to be some kind of idiot-savant—minus the savant, unless you count licking people as a rare sixth sense. I immediately conjured an image of the screenwriter, Kelly Fremon, smirking as she penned her “delightfully idiosyncratic” characters. Luckily for her, their obvious contrivance is masked by the agonizing pretense of the entire script.
Amidst this frenzy of patchwork comedy laced together (to form what, I don’t dare guess), is a plot involving a lovesick male best friend (as recited by Zach Gilford), a predictably exotic and sensual foreign Lothario, an overpriced casket and a neighborhood boxcar race. Amazingly, all threads manage to converge (explode?) in the end, aided by conveniently instantaneous revelations, ten-cent philosophical ponderings, and knee-jerk relocations to Rio De Janeiro and New York.
I am bewildered that this film was ever green-lighted; it’s only sporadically amusing, the few seasoned actors are given little to work with, it suffers from a raging case of ADHD that would put Hunter to shame, and presents us with a coming-of-age tableau that is neither inspirational nor uplifting. How depressingly apropos that a script about an aspiring editor somehow managed to get past the gate-keepers in Hollywood. I wouldn’t have expected anything less.
Post Grad • Dolby® Digital surround sound in select theatres • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 • Running Time: 89 Minutes • MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual situations and brief strong language. • Distributed by Fox Searchlight