Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Post Grad: Bledel's choice and the damage done

Post Grad is so bad I almost find it intriguing. It leaves behind many questions. Why are songs played so loudly in this movie that the lyrics distract you from the action on the screen? Why is Carol Burnett, one of my favorite comediennes, degrading herself in this fashion? Why is Michael Keaton doing the same? Why is it that in other fields people gain in stature and dignity with their accomplishments, and yet the film industry wastes its veteran performers in this way?

In Post Grad, Burnett plays the quirky granny of a quirky, goofy, and trashy family known as the Malbys that includes Ryden (Alexis Bledel) as the daughter who just graduated from college and Walter (Michael Keaton) as Ryden's idiot dad. Uniformly, all of the actors are wasted, diminished, and shamed in this movie for no good reason beyond the fact that writer Kelly Fremon has difficulty fashioning a paint-by-numbers formulaic screenplay, and perhaps also because director Vicky Jenson has a tin eye for shooting scenes.

Take, for instance, the writing. After a credit sequence that cleverly imitates a social media site complete with Bledel and others introduced on imbedded videos, the film begins with a graduation scene much as Say Anything and Ghost World do. Ryden has plans of working for a big publishing house in LA, but fate transpires to prevent her from attaining her lifelong dream job, so she has to go back home to her tacky family and hunt around for work while riding a kid's bicycle. Meanwhile, her dweeby friend Adam (Zach Gilford) pines with unrequited love for her as he has difficulty deciding between playing generic acoustic guitar songs for a living or going to Columbia Law School.

In this inert movie where each scene dies long before the next trundles into place, new developments are often forced. For instance, the Malby family walks noisily into the graduation exercises, crumpling a bag of Cheetos, and generally being loud until another parent asks them to be quiet. Grandma Maureen (Burnett) replies with "I'm dying." Later, to augment this dying theme, she tries out coffins in a funeral home (ha). Then, when Ryden accidentally breaks a pink coffin, the Malby family carries it home on the roof of their car and park it in front of the house next to the plaster gnomes (ha, ha). Objects tend to arrive in this film with small arrows pointing at them to connote significance. We learn to watch for the next chocolate-covered ice cream bar as it gradually assumes the meaning of true love, and I'll refrain from even mentioning the go-cart derby theme that helps Ryden's younger brother gain independence.

Writer Kelly Fremon also has trouble arranging for her characters to meet. Ryden needs to fall for a handsome Brazilian fellow (Rodrigo Santoro) living across the street in order to initiate a love triangle, so Fremon arranges that meeting by having the Brazilian guy's cat poop on the Malby's driveway. Walter steps in said crap and then storms with his daughter across the street to curse the guy out. Mission accomplished. Later, Walter will run over the same cat on the same driveway to inadvertently finalize his daughter's romance.

As Post Grad labors its way through several bogus climaxes (go-cart race!), the now de rigueur Devil Wears Prada-influenced music montage, and its patently unlikely The Graduate-esque conclusion, I wondered . . . what of Alexis Bledel? Given that my wife is a heavy-duty Gilmore Girls fan, I have suffered through several shows and wondered how it works--why people (mostly women?) like its relentless machine gun witty banter, its romantic intriques, and the terminal chirpiness and the glazed eyes of the creepy denizens of Cuddly Hollow (or whatever that New England town is called). Given all of its problems, The Gilmore Girls is far superior to Post Grad, so what happened? Why did Bledel choose this film? Did her career fall off of a cliff? Was the modest success of The Travelling Pants series not enough for her? Did she arrange for the occasional Gilmore Girls reference in Post Grad? The Malby's lawn decoration plaster gnomes could refer to the similar ones owned by that deranged motormouth character played by Sally Struthers in the TV show. Did Bledel like the screenplay because it roughly follows what might have happened to Rory at the end of the TV series? Did she feel obliged to keep herself in the media eye? Luke Harrington of MovieZeal notes how Bledel tends to play the straight man in Gilmore Girls, and that doesn't translate well to starring roles. So, yes, she plays a variation of Rory in Post Grad, and one wonders how much her acting mannerisms may congeal after all of those television episodes. She smiles, and is charming. She may yet star in other good movies, but I still wonder if she knows how much damage this career choice has caused.


surrey said...

Really why are play back music so loudly....its break my enjoyment..

FilmDr said...

You said it, Surrey.

Hokahey said...

Because of Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, my daughter likes Alexis Bledel - so we checked out this movie on a special night out at Downtown Disney in Anaheim. I felt so sorry that this movie is so horrible! Just horrible! Carol Burnett was grotesque. Alexis Bledel was fetching - but she had no story and nothing to do.

FilmDr said...

Thanks, Hokahey. All I could do afterwards was console myself with the thought that at least I had found another movie for my ten worst films of 2009 list (along with Transformers 2 and Land of the Lost). Also, it was a relief to write the review as a kind of exorcism.