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.