Ryden Malby’s master plan is as follows:1. Get good grades in high school. 2. Secure a scholarship to a good college. 3. Maintain good grades to keep said scholarship and 4. Graduate and land an awesome job. As a recent college grad myself, these basic tenants are all too familiar.
I wanted to like Post Grad. I hoped it would speak to my own post-college angst and trouble finding a good job (heck, any job) in our recession-ravaged job market. Alas, Post Grad falls by the wayside as a forgettable slapstick cum romantic comedy, and it’s about as similar to a 20-something’s’ real life as Friends was in the ‘90s.
In case anyone was wondering what befell Rory Gilmore after graduation, look no further than Alexis Bledel’s portrayal of Ryden Malby. While Bledel is lovely and somewhat likeable, every character she plays is a variation of the role she’s best known for: Rory on Gilmore Girls.
Following graduation, Ryden fails to land her dream job at a publishing house and perfect loft apartment downtown. She moves back home to the San Fernando Valley with her ostensibly kooky family (Michael Keaton, Jane Lynch and Carol Burnett — the latter two’s comedic talents are woefully under utilized) and starts interviewing anywhere and everywhere. Ryden’s best friend is the soft-spoken and bland Adam (Zach Gilford of Friday Night Lights) who’s totally in love with her.
While Post Grad has some meaningful messages (it’s OK if you don’t know what you want to do with your life, the people you love are more important than any career) its delivery is sloppy and clichéd. The movie gets bogged down in several inexplicable sub-plots that are meant to come off as quirky or endearing, but end up being superfluous and weird. For instance, Grandma (Burnett) likes going coffin shopping, Dad (Keaton) gets arrested for selling stolen belt buckles, and there’s the particularly drawn out sequence of Ryden’s misfit younger brother’s boxcar race. Which he wins, of course. After driving into a lake.
Bledel and Gilford suffer a complete lack of chemistry. Ryden’s other romantic interest in the film is David, a sexy, older neighbor with a Brazilian accent (Rodrigo Santoro). It’s a shame that Ryden doesn’t pick David, though they don’t have sparks, either. But at least David’s cute and interesting. Adam (and Gilford) is decidedly underwhelming. He gives Ryden a creepy leg massage in the grocery store his father owns. He does his best John Mayer impression and croons to a hip bar audience about his tragic love for Ryden. These scenes, and all others featuring Adam are the most uninspired of the entire movie, and that’s saying something. True, the script is partly to blame, but Gilford’s wooden performance is the second-worst part of Post Grad.
The worst part of Post Grad is its progression into a tired, predictable story who’s ending we can see coming from fifteen minutes in. Ryden ultimately realizes (with a little help from David over red wine) that her dream job, which she eventually lands, is not as important as the people around her. Also—shocker—she suddenly decides she returns Adam’s adoration. Inconveniently she’s just hurt Adam’s feelings, and he’s moved across the country to attend Columbia Law. I’ll spare you the taking-a-plane-across-the-country-New-York-City-skyline montage, because you can probably imagine it yourself. We’ve all seen it a hundred times before, and in better movies, to boot.
The special features section of the DVD is bafflingly extensive. There are nine (nine!) deleted scenes, and two music videos. The first is an alternate song for Adam to sing in the film, but it’s still a thinly veiled ballad about Ryden. The second is Jack Savoretti (songwriter of both of Adam’s songs) singing the song featured in the film, except in an airy beach house bedroom.
Also included are two interactive quizzes. Find Your Match! The Best Job For You and What Not to Wear. Find Your Match determined that because I like making things and reading newspapers, I should be a fashion designer or an account executive. What Not to Wear shows two pictures of office wear, polished vs. promiscuous, and asks the viewer to pick which one is work-appropriate.
Post Grad Confidential is a making-of feature that showcases interviews with the screenwriter (Kelly Fremon) producers, and director (Vicky Jenson). Fremon is a sunny girl-next-door type who drew on her own experiences when writing Post Grad. She’s bubbly and sincere and I almost felt bad about hating her script. The producers talk about how nuanced and subtle and “grounded” the film is, and pat themselves on the back for its sophisticated combination of physical and verbal comedy (Examples of physical comedy in the film include Keaton stepping in cat poop.)
Most bizarre is a brief interview with Marcus Buckingham, a British fellow who wrote Find Your Strongest Life a career advice book for women. Wide-eyed and earnest, Buckingham tells women to find out what their strengths are by writing down what they love or hate doing over the course of a week. I understand the connection the DVD producers are trying to make with the numerous “how to get a job” featurettes, but the extra content is unnecessary and by and large uninteresting.
Far and away the best part of the special features is the supremely awkward Real Life Advice with Alexis Bledel & Zach Gilford. Alexis and Zach are perched on overstuffed white chairs on a bed of fake grass lit by bright studio lights. The two dish about starting their acting careers and how similar auditions are to job interviews. Bledel seems slightly uncomfortable, but dutifully promotes the film by offering some solid, if generic, advice like “take your time”. Gilford interrupts with such gems as “This whole movie… I could really relate to,” and “My best advice is be yourself. But your more outgoing self. But don’t be fake.” There you have it, post grads, the key to success: Be outgoing, but not fake.