Quantcast
subscriber help

artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Post Grad (review)

Help Wanted

People have names like Ryden Malby only in the movies. And we’re only expected to like people like Ryden Malby (Alexis Bledel: The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2, Sin City) in the movies… though I don’t see why we should give in to that kind of peer pressure. And oh yes, it’s peer pressure, all right: We keep hearing people insist, all through Post Grad, that Ryden is “amazing,” despite the movie offering us no evidence to support this contention, and offering quite a bit (though probably unintentionally) to the contrary. But never mind: You will love Ryden Malby, or be considered a curmudgeon.

Fine. I’m a curmudgeon, then.
Here’s Ryden’s deal: She just graduated from college five minutes ago, and she’s already bitching — in a way that’s supposed to be adorable, all tossed hair and puppy-dog eyes and such — about how her life isn’t awesome like she thought it would be. How dare the universe ignore her plans for the best life ever? Now, it’s not that a sense of dreamy entitlement isn’t something many young 20somethings don’t have… it’s that Post Grad doesn’t see it as an unreasonable sense of dreamy entitlement. I mean, look how cute Ryden is! Doesn’t she deserve it all? The tediously unintrospective script — by first-timer Kelly Fremon and based upon her own post-college woes — doesn’t dare suggest that the adult thing to do is to take charge of one’s life, even if that means making new plans. Nope: the cute thing to do is just to let life buffet you along until some other random event prompts you to throw up your hands and sigh and give in in the most adorable manner you can muster.

See, Ryden wanted to work in publishing in Los Angeles — “Books are all I know and everything I love,” she sighs adorably — and so when her dream job at a certain publishing house falls through, does she regroup and hit the pavement hounding all the other publishing houses in L.A. for a job, any job, just let her prove herself and work her way up? Not at all. Does she follow her best friend, Adam (Zach Gilford), to New York, where he’s planning to attend Columbia law school and where, rumor has it, publishing work is also to be found? Never! Instead, she mopes and moans and searches the newspaper help-wanted ads — that’s right: the newspaper ads, not Monster.com or mediabistro’s awesome job listings — and ends up working a crappy mall job with her dad (Michael Keaton: Cars, White Noise), selling luggage. (As unflappable as his charm may be, Keaton is edging his way toward self-parody here.) Oh, until she ends up working a crappy production assistant job with her neighbor (Rodrigo Santoro: Che, Redbelt), a director of infomercials and a mega-hottie who threatens the status quo with Adam.

Oh, yeah, and there’s that. Adam gets to be forlorn, too, in a way that’s supposed to be adorable and just makes you want to smack him — just like Ryden! He’s been in love with Ryden since forever, but she’s made it clear that she’s Not Interested. So does he, like a grownup, move on, aware that he’s invested years of his life waiting for a girl who is never going to give him what he wants? No, indeed. Like an idiot, like the passive-aggressive Nice Guy he is, he’s all sweet concern — which is, of course, really self-interested game-playing — when Ryden needs a shoulder to cry on, and then gets all huffy and hurt when Ryden takes up with the hottie neighbor. (Dude, she told you she Wasn’t Interested!)

But — spoilers! — Adam knows he’s in a crappy, simplistic, wish-fulfillment fantasy, and knows that if he just hangs in there long enough, Ryden will see the error of her ways. If we can be assured, from the moment we meet these two delusional, selfish morons that they’re going to end up together, then why couldn’t the film just cut to the chase and have her follow him to New York from the beginning? We’d have been spared the flat dreariness of funeral-home slapstick and “jokes” about dead housepets, the tedious combination of schmaltz and goofiness that director Vicky Jenson (animation vet and codirector on Shark Tale and Shrek) desperately tries to juggle, and the spectacle of Carol Burnett (Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!, The Trumpet of the Swan) as Ryden’s wacky grandma.

None of it is cute, or fun, or smart, or wise. It’s just dumb. If this is indicative of how college leaves you at the far end, we’re in big trouble.


MPAA: rated PG-13 for sexual situations and brief strong language

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine
  • skywriter1

    Having read the script when it first entered the flow of hollywood desks (and way before Kelly get her Break), it’s hard to imagine the script translated so poorly to the screen or that the director so badly mishandled it.

    It was the kinder, gentler JUNO before anyone knew what JUNO was, and people were clamoring to jump on the Kelly Fremon bandwagon before there were even wheels on the thing it was that fresh of a read.

    It can’t be as terrible as your cynical review claims it is (and yes, I’ve known quite a few guys who still pined after best friends that are girls even after they were told “No Way”), and it can’t be as topical as other reviews I’ve read condemning the film for not tackling the current job market situation in a “realistic” way (uh, hello? It takes years to get films made – the script was written and bought in ’04, not to mention no one wants to see a realistically wrought “job search” movie), and frankly, if a movie tackled trying to find a job straight out of college in a manner in which you imply it should have been handled, there would have A: been no movie at all, and B: it wouldnt be true to the writer’s original intent in telling the story.

  • “…if a movie tackled trying to find a job straight out of college in a manner in which you imply it should have been handled, there would have A: been no movie at all, and B: it wouldnt be true to the writer’s original intent in telling the story.”

    you make A sound like a bad thing; and B someone’s sad sack story about a job search isn’t exactly “original” material, even if it is original to her.

  • MaSch

    Somehow, I can’t imagine a performance by Michael Keaton bordering on self-parody without him putting on a Batsuit or something very similar to it.

    Now, MaryAnn, if you won’t tell me that such a scene is not in the movie, I might be tempted to watch it and find out for myself.

  • Accounting Ninja

    Urg! No! It’s got all the makings of the kind of movies I hate from this description! Random events moving the plot forward instead of the characters (oh wow! Look what totally just happened by accident)! Protragonist reeks of Mary Sue! Stupid romantic conventions (of which Beleaguered Nice Guy always gets the girl, who is too dumb to Know What’s Good For Her)! Horribly unrealistic portrayals of life (like the life of a 20-something seemingly written from the POV of a high school freshman who thinks it would be THE COOLEST EVAR to be a young 20-something right outta college!!one!!) The fact that it’s NOT written by said person is even WORSE! And the very worst part of all is kids, but especially young girls, are constantly fed this tripe.

    *breathes deeply* Kay, I’m done.

  • david

    Maryann has been on this rant about “passive-aggressive Nice Guys” who’s “all sweet concern — which is, of course, really self-interested game-playing” before. I can’t help but think of that guy who shot up an LA Fitness club in Pennsylvania last month. He was frustrated because women who he was attracted to didn’t want him. He kept a blog where he whined about women not wanting him even though he was “a catch” and a “nice guy.”

  • jenny

    I’ve got to agree with skywriter — I read the script a while back and it was miles better than most of the stuff that’s out there — no, the characters didn’t all have common sense, but that’s a fairly real reflection of real life — and the script is funny in completely unexpected ways. If it’s been butchered from page to screen that’s really sad.

  • Accounting Ninja

    @jenny: I can’t help but think you may in fact be skywriter. Just a hunch. Where were all these people able to “read the script”?

    @david: That guy was the Nice Guy taken to the worst extreme. I can’t stand Nice Guys, personally. At best they are infuriatingly privelege-blind and at worst very dangerous. It’s too bad mass media coddles these men (like in the story above about Nice Guy gets girl).

  • MaryAnn

    I’ve known quite a few guys who still pined after best friends that are girls even after they were told “No Way”)

    Of course that happens. But it’s not cute or charming, and it is very, very frequently — if ever — rewarded in the long run.

    no one wants to see a realistically wrought “job search” movie

    Probably not. But a movie that’s about someone looking for a job should at least act like its protagonist is actually going about it in a way that reflects her desire for a job. This one would have us believe that its protagonist is either a moron or doesn’t really want to work in publishing at all.

    A: been no movie at all, and B: it wouldnt be true to the writer’s original intent in telling the story

    Not all stories are worth telling. Perhaps this is one of them.

  • MaryAnn

    Somehow, I can’t imagine a performance by Michael Keaton bordering on self-parody without him putting on a Batsuit or something very similar to it.

    Now, MaryAnn, if you won’t tell me that such a scene is not in the movie, I might be tempted to watch it and find out for myself.

    No, there’s no scene like that in the movie. But Keaton is forced to act like an idiot through much of the film, until all of a sudden he turns wise in a way that all his previous actions belie.

  • MaryAnn

    no, the characters didn’t all have common sense, but that’s a fairly real reflection of real life

    Of course many people do not exhibit common sense. That’s not necessarily an indication of a poorly told story.

    But when the lifelong dream of the protagonist is to work in publishing and yet her story is apparently structured to give the indication that there’s only one publishing company in Los Angeles, I’m gonna call bullshit on it.

  • Paul

    @Accounting Ninja: the mass media wants tension in its romantic plots. That means the woman has to chose between two men, that she has to choose the wrong one first, there must be a reason for her to change her mind, and that the second guy has to stick around long enough for her to change her mind.

    Thus I while I concede that I, personally, give up on a girl if she chooses someone else, I also see the dramatic reasons a movie ends up with this formula. I concede that if it is poorly done the characters look like idiots, if it is done right it works well. I’ve seen it in “Gone with the Wind” and “Sense and Sensibility.”

  • Accounting Ninja

    @Paul: I’m a romantic-movie cynic. I find that whole plot of romantic rivals so cliche. Maybe it’s done well sometimes, but too often it’s laughable: The girl is portrayed as stupid, fickle and blind, which makes you wonder why either man even wants her. The “nice guy” is portrayed as a saint, oh-so-long-suffering, and eternally emotionally giving. The rival is initially portrayed as being “perfect” (read: what men think all women want: smarmy-smooth, rich, fast car, Adonis body, so as to highlight the totally unfair standards the Nice Guy has to emulate but can’t, so we feel even more sorry for him.) Maybe there’s hints of his inevitable doucheyness, like when he insults or threatens the Girl’s Nice Guy friend in front of her, and of course she conveniently doesn’t hear or ignores evidence of douchery and never thinks of standing up for her friend. Eventually, he will be revealed as the Monster Douche he is: a serial cheater, using the Girl, a fucking pedophile. Whatever it takes!

    The worst part for me is that it’s overwhelmingly a woman with two men fighting over her. Even if it’s told from her POV, it’s still annoying.

    I dunno. I still feel the eyeball strain when I rolled them three months ago during Doctor Horrible’s “romantic” subplot.

  • Grinebiter

    The girl is portrayed as stupid, fickle and blind, which makes you wonder why either man even wants her.

    I always felt like that about Roxanne in “Cyrano de Bergerac”, she has no object in life other than listening to paeans to her own beauty, so it’s not just Hollywood. It’s presumably in the play, just as it is in other classic literature, much of which revolves around “a woman with two men fighting over her”. Either stupid males have been telling this story for millennia for no good reason, or else the story is actually rooted in human nature.

    Those women who sincerely want a man, a real live human being to be with, will pick one more or less effectively, whereas those women who primarily want attention will eternally juggle two or more men, so as to maximise the total quantity of said attention. It’s a rational strategy. If you don’t sympathise with the latter kind, then three cheers for you; maybe you tell failed suitors to buzz off rather than go “let’s be friends” and milk them for attention, devotion and resources, in which case four cheers for you!

  • Accounting Ninja

    Ha, at least in the 80s remake of Roxanne, Charlie (Cyrano) got to tell off Roxanne about her fickle ways and how easily the dolt seduced her.

    You’re right. There are people who just seek attention. But it’s not exclusive to the female gender. What about the man who juggles a mistress and his wife and refuses to give up either, especially in the cases where the women (foolishly) blame each other and fight over him. I’m sure he’s loving the attention too.

    And no, I don’t play those games. I have lots of male friends. If I say I want to be friends, I mean it, and I won’t then send mixed signals, like flirting with him, giving him physical attention (hugs and kisses more than female friends), constantly complain about my husband, etc. Do I know women like this? Yup. And THEY love the drama it creates too. So too do the “poor” “nice” guys, otherwise they’d stop gravitating toward these women or at least put up some friendly, healthy boundaries. It’s basically a drama-fest all around. No thanks!!

  • Grinebiter

    Agree that the whole triangular attention buzz thing can be the other way round. If you want to tell me that fewer movies are made on that premise, though, I shan’t object. Exceptions may be made for Michael Douglas…..

    I’m not convinced, though, that all the poor nice guys do the gravitating thing out of love of drama. Plenty other motives: lust, love, loneliness, desperation, masochism and so forth. Been there, done that; but I don’t like drama and never did.

  • Accounting Ninja

    I’m not convinced, though, that all the poor nice guys do the gravitating thing out of love of drama. Plenty other motives: lust, love, loneliness, desperation, masochism and so forth. Been there, done that; but I don’t like drama and never did.

    But see, plenty of women do too! My best friend, a woman, does this. She’s terribly unhappy with her husband and has had a string of these type of “guy friends” who always have massive crushes on her and she uses them for the attention she doesn’t get at home. Not saying it’s right. It’s cowardly, IMO. If you are that unhappy, leave! But, you know, she’s not just a drama-attention whore. (Though she is, like, 40% that ;))

    Maybe it’s a personality difference: drama makes me uncomfortable. I just like to kick back, laugh and have fun and get along. She’s more…stormy in nature. It’s why we’re such good friends. But her storminess leads her into events that I’d run screaming from!!

  • Grinebiter

    She’s terribly unhappy with her husband and has had a string of these type of “guy friends” who always have massive crushes on her and she uses them for the attention she doesn’t get at home.

    She should maybe do what they used to do in Italy and acquire an official escort, cavalier and attention-giver, the “Cicisbeo”.

  • I concede that if it is poorly done the characters look like idiots, if it is done right it works well. I’ve seen it in “Gone with the Wind” and “Sense and Sensibility.”

    True. But in Gone with the Wind, it seemed obvious by the familiarity Rhett Butler showed with Belle Watling’s place that he wasn’t exactly sitting around brooding that much about whether or not Scarlett would ever come to like him. And, come to think of it, that other cinematic movie ideal, Rick Blaine of Casablanca, wasn’t exactly living like a monk either while he was estranged from his “one true love” either.

  • Grinebiter

    Not to mention Florentino Ariza…..

  • Saw this movie yesterday (snuck in after District 9 … how’s that for contrast?), and it was truly awful, way worse than expected, and I expected it to be pretty bad.

    The most disappointing thing about it was finally realizing that Alexis Bledel is a horrible actress. She’s beautiful, but horrible. She cannot carry a movie, and I’m guessing she won’t be given the chance to do so again.

    There are commenters who say this script used to be good? That seems so far away.

Pin It on Pinterest