There is a perceptive film hiding within "Post Grad," the story of an ambitious young woman just out of college who discovers the next step toward getting your foot in the door and making a career for yourself isn't as easy or instantaneous as expected. This is a highly relatable subject that most anyone who has received a university degree has experienced, and could have made for an accurate, deeply felt motion picture. In the lead role of discouraged, downtrodden Ryden Malby, Alexis Bledel (2008's "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2
") is fresh and nothing if not earnest, the kind of talented actor who may be incapable of performing a dishonest moment in front of the camera. This is quite a feat in the instance of "Post Grad," since, disappointingly, there is so little truth otherwise found in what Vicky Jenson (2004's "Shark Tale
") has directed and first-time scripter Kelly Fremon hath wrought. Indeed, the movie shoehorns its way down so many wrongheaded paths it is almost as if Jenson and Fremon have intentionally set out to destroy their finished product.
22-year-old Ryden Malby (Alexis Bledel) seems to have it all figured out. For the last four years, she has limited the partying and concentrated on her studies, with the ultimate goal of nabbing herself a job at Happerman & Browning, L.A.'s most esteemed publishing company. Her dream is to find the next great American novel, but her plans don't quite turn out as hoped. On the same day, Ryden gets into an accident that nearly totals her car, loses the loft she planned to buy after her check bounces, and doesn't nab the job positionto make matters worse, competitive former classmate and valedictorian Jessica Bard (Catherine Reitman) does. Moving back in with her familyluggage-selling father Walter (Michael Keaton), supportive mother Carmella (Jane Lynch), quirky kid brother Hunter (Bobby Coleman), and funeral-planning grandmother Maureen (Carol Burnett)Ryden begins scouring the job market in the hopes that something will come her way. Meanwhile, when she begins a relationship with a sexy older neighbor, infomercial director David (Rodrigo Santoro), it causes a rift with her best friend Adam (Zach Gilford), the lovelorn good guy she is meant to be with, but doesn't yet know it.
The conceit behind "Post Grad" is admirable, but it's a botched job at every turn. Believing that a more serious treatment of the story just won't do, director Vicky Jenson opts to turn the film into a groan-inducing sitcom overstuffed with meaningless subplots that only serve to get in the way. In between Ryden's scenes of soul-searching are would-be comic interludes involving Maureen's search for the perfect casket to bury herself in, Walter's accidental running-over of David's cat, and Hunter's oddball behavior. If that weren't enough, we also must contend with Adam's strained relationship with father Roy (J.K. Simmons), Walter's arrest over the alleged trafficking of belt buckles, Hunter's participation in a boxcar derby complete with false crises when his brakes fail, and a love triangle that only serves to turn the bright Ryden into a flighty bimbo who is inconsiderate (and awfully dense) of close pal Adam's feelings. Half of these detours are carelessly thrown to the wayside and forgotten about by the end, rendering them even more pointless.
At the center of all the malarkey is Ryden, sympathetic if naïve from the get-go, but increasingly less easy to like as the script dumbs her down. Her romance with David is a non-starter, inconsequential except to cause a conflict between her and Adam. Sign #1 that David isn't right for her: he's trying to get into her pants literally minutes after his own cat has been run over and killed. Sign #2: Isn't sign #1 weird enough? Alexis Bledel gives the role of Ryden her best shot, but she is left stranded by dopey writing. Her character's nadir: arriving to apologize to Adam by driving a music-playing ice cream truck onto the court where he is playing basketball. It's as lame as it sounds, not to mention a rip-off of a better, nearly identical scene in 1991's "Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead." As Adam, Zach Gilford (TV's amazing "Friday Night Lights") is saddled with the Duckie part, though the fact that he's a brooding musician on the side should at least earn him some brownie points. Carol Burnett (2008's "Horton Hears a Who!
") has the few comical moments that actually work as grandma Maureen, but Michael Keaton (2005's "White Noise
") overacts like a maniac who can't be trusted as father Walter.
"Post Grad" is superficial and, by the end, insulting. For a recent superior film about post-college disillusionment, seek out "Adventureland
." Despite Ryden's initial declaration that books are her life, it is interesting to note that she isn't seen once with a book in hand. Instead of concentrating on all the little details that make her who she is, the film is too concerned busying itself with ridiculous, inappropriate narrative tangents and zonky supporting characters. Without specifically giving away the final scenes, let it be known that they are far-fetched, irresponsible, and such an anti-feminist slap in the face that one can scarcely believe the film was written and directed by women. The narrow-minded, antiquated finale of "Post Grad" would be right at home in a black-&-white, pre-"The Mary Tyler Moore Show" television series. It's so quaint and ignorant, in fact, that when Ryden heads for the airport, her parents don't even offer to drive her (a cab picks her up in front of the house). Shaking your head in disbelief is just about the only natural response to "Post Grad."