Ryden Malby (Alexis Bledel) has just finished earning her degree at college. Now she's ready to step into the so-called real world. Her father and mother (Michael Keaton, Jane Lynch) wish her good luck as she tries to get her dream job. But then everything doesn't go according to plan. Ryden doesn't get her dream job just out of school, and while the rest of her classmates are obscenely pipelined into fabulous jobs, she cannot even get a job. So Ryden endures humiliating jobs, including working for her daffy dad, while trying to keep her sky-high expectations in check.
The movie actually has a small amount of promise at the beginning, believe it or not (most of you understandably keep your doubts). Ryden opens the film in a brisk narration explaining her life's plan, which involves getting good grades, getting a scholarship to a school, and landing a job at a specific publisher (as if another editing gig at a different company would be a career disappointment?). She's a good student with a strong work ethic that has driven her thus far and gotten her several key internships. And then she steps out into the job market and realizes ... she's not alone. Other candidates her own age have similar qualifications and even more; she's no longer a big fish in a small pond, if you'd prefer your explanations in the analogical sense. This is fertile dramatic ground that not too many movies have treaded before. Sure, other films have dealt with culture shock and perspective altering, in abundance, but what modern movie has dealt with the idea that you aren't hot stuff? There are plenty of other people out there just as talented and capable, and you have to do more than work hard to succeed. It's admittedly not an easily inspirational message, but that's what caught my interest early and made me forgive the lame attempts at humor (people step in cat poop!). But then around Act Three, Post Grad guts itself for an absurdly undemanding happy ending and spills its squishy guts. Ryden gets the job she was passed over by doing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING other than wait out the first hire (incidentally, class valedictorian and Ryden's mortal enemy, played by Ivan Reitman's attractive daughter -- weird). I hope this paragraph doesn't mislead people into thinking Post Grad sticks with this hardened perspective, because as soon as Ryden doesn't get her dream job it just becomes an exhausted recycling of teen flick clichés that the ghost of John Hughes wouldn't bother to touch.
Even though this movie is derivative up the ying-yang, I believe that Post Grad's biggest hindrance is its main character. Ryden never once comes across as sympathetic on her supposed journey into adulthood. She tackles adversity with whining and a lot of that exasperated sigh/harrumph-ing that moody teenagers do to passive-aggressively express their dissatisfaction. She also falls into that familiar teen comedy landscape where her lifelong best guy friend (Zach Gilford) has been harboring a crush for ages, obvious to everyone except Ryden. That's because Ryden can't see beyond her own problems and self-perceived injustices. All she talks about is her self; she's pretty much a vapid twit. Here are a few examples that manage to strangle any attempt for the audience to empathize with the blue-eyed pipsqueak: 1) Ryden is so positive she's going to get her dream job that she write a check for a posh $1200 a month apartment. This does not go well. 2) Ryden is talking to her hunky Brazilian neighbor (Rodrigo Santoro) and over the course of one glass of wine the 18-year-old is ready to hop in the sack with this older stranger. Unfortunately, Ryden's family walks in on these shenanigans because nobody ever locks their doors so that interruptions can occur during awkward moments. And 3) Her friend/unknown crusher asks her to come to his show, where he plays a song he wrote for her about his love! She somehow completely forgets about this to prove how unworthy of being immortalized in acoustic guitar she is. Post Grad would be an infinitely better movie if the main character were eliminated completely.
The tone of this movie flies back and forth erratically. Ryden's family members are like the leftovers from a Quirky Indie Family rummage sale. They all have to exhibit some banal eccentricity so it seems like they're auditioning for a future reality show. The family stuff is just bizarre and played for spineless comic absurdity. There are also plenty of celebrity cameos just to pad the running time. Later in the movie, the family accidentally runs over the Brazilian neighbor's cat. I thought, "Oh there's no way this kind of movie murders a cat for laughs." Surprise! The cat gets murdered for laughs, which leads to an awkward cat funeral where the pussy gets laid to rest in an oversized pizza box. This concept is not without humor, but it is tonally inappropriate for this movie. Post Grad is a soft, fuzzy teen flick that barely earns a PG-13 rating thanks to a few naughty words and Bledel removing her shirt during her takedown of the Brazilian. There is no reason for this movie to go down dark avenues of comedy. It's be like watching an Amanda Bynes movie and suddenly watching her inject heroin into her vein (Fun fact: Bynes was initially cast as Ryden and dropped out. You know you're in a bad situation when you're picking up Ms. Bynes' leftovers).
The inanity of this movie is almost unbearable. I think it's going to become like a piece of shorthand with my friends whenever someone refers to something resoundingly dreadful. "Man, the date I went on was so totally Post Grad," or, "This audit totally Post Grad's it." Try it out with your friends the next time you have a social gathering. Someone has to try and make these things stick, slang-wise.
I like Alexis Bledel as an actress. I like teen movies when they approach their subjects with heart or wit. I don't like wasting Bledel's talents and my time with this lightweight nonsense. I'm having trouble wrestling up enough energy just to complete this review, which might explain some of the scattershot references (a desperate man's attempt to stay sane). Post Grad is written by a woman, directed by a woman, which makes the finished product feel like a girl-on-girl crime. Then again, would I single out the gender of the litany of male screenwriters when badmouthing the shoddy work? Apologies for what seems to be amounting into a stream-of-consciousness essay on everything except Post Grad. That's perhaps the best summation: a movie so powerfully mundane it anesthetizes all brain activity. Just sit back in your lobotomy-like state and grin.
Nate's Grade: D+