Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Post Grad

3/4

Starring: Alexis Bledel, Zach Gilford, Michael Keaton, Jane Lynch, Rodrigo Santoro, Carol Burnett, Bobby Coleman, Catherine Reitman

Rated PG-13 for Sexual Situations and Brief Strong Language

One of the great pleasures of going to the movies is being able to watch something on screen and know exactly how the characters are feeling.  I had plenty of those moments while watching "Post Grad," a comedy about a college graduate who is unable to find a job while everyone else around her has one (and isn't letting her forget it).

Ryden Malby (Bledel) has it all figured out: get good grades, get a scholarship to college, get good grades, and get a job at the hottest publishing company in LA.  Of course when she graduates, she realizes that it's not that simple: an impressive resume and references mean little compared to someone who is already in the know, as her self-absorbed friend Jessica (Reitman) tells her.  Of course, she has her kooky family and her best friend Adam (Gilford) to fall back on.  But that's little consolation when you're stuck at home with no job and no prospects.

There are two elements in this film that work: Ryden's search for a job and her friendship-turned-romance with Adam.  The former has a ring of truth that anyone who didn't get a job right out of college will understand intimately (I could almost feel the sting of rejection).  The latter works because Bledel and Gilford have plenty of chemistry, and both are impossible not to like.

Unfortunately, those are paired with the stuff with Ryden's family.  It's meant to make them seem colorful and likable, but it doesn't work.  In fact, the film comes to a dead halt whenever they take center stage.  The material isn't inherently bad, but it's played too broadly.  It's straight out of a bad sitcom.

Alexis Bledel does not have great range, but she does a solid job as the Millenial who is trying to make her way into the adult working world.  I had many of the same experiences as her and she reacts in a similar way that I did, so it was easy for me to identify with her.  The bitterness of watching your friends land posh jobs when no employer will give you the time of day, the feeling that no one will ever give you a job, and the unintentional sense of entitlement and ego that everyone seems to have gotten with their job offer.  It's all here, and Bledel is an effective stand-in for us.

Likewise, Zach Gilford doesn't have a lot of range.  But he is impossible not to like and totally adorable.  He finds the perfect note to play the post-college guy, lending him charisma and, well, likability.  I know guys like Adam, and much of the reason his character is relatable is that Gilford gets the small details right.  Bledel may be our anchor, but it's Gilford that steals all of his scenes.

Despite being talented and having a number of hilarious performances on their resumes, few of the scenes with Michael Keaton, Jane Lynch and Carol Burnett work.  Keaton in particular is disappointing; he plays his scenes, which aren't especially funny to begin with, far too broadly.  Lynch is more or less invisible, while Burnett struggles with the meager material that she's given.  Bobby Coleman is obnoxious as Ryden's little brother (and not in a good way) while Rodrigo Santoro is as wooden as he's ever been (adding insult to injury, his character is a creep that Ryden falls for only because the plot requires her to).  Special mention has to go to Catherine Reitman, who is perfectly detestable as Ryden's egotistical friend Jessica.  She's got everything Ryden wishes she had, and acts as if its nothing.

Ultimately, it's not the lack of focus that hurts the film, but director Vicki Jenson's inept handling of the film's humor.  Little of it works, which is surprising since she co-directed "Shrek," one of the most hilarious and wicked comedies in a long time.  Here, little of it lands, and it reeks of being written by a committee of clueless studio executives.

Is it worth seeing?  It's a tough call, but I think so.  There are some really effective elements here, including some hard truths about being freshly out of college in today's world.  The stuff with Ryden's family is garbage, but at least it's above painful.

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