It seems a little unfair to rip into a movie like “Post Grad”. I don’t mind doing it with a movie like “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” because it comes from strong source material, has solid actors, and cost a $150 million to make so a failure is not only a disappointment but a little offensive. But “Post Grad” is so insipid, so in love with its empty characters, barely able to understand its own premise, and comes to such sickening conclusions, I can’t let it pass. When the only way to survive it is to wonder how the next scene will be worse than the one that came before, I feel justified in ripping the film apart since it ripped apart my soul for what felt like an eternity. I can’t understand why Fox Searchlight didn’t dump this straight to DVD and now it’s gonna be taking up 1,958 screens this weekend and wasting the time of those foolish enough to pay a ticket because they thought the movie looked kind of cute judging from the standee in the lobby.
“Post Grad” grows from a reasonable and potentially entertaining idea of what the perfect college student does when he or she graduates. You can have the best resume and planning possible, and still not get the job you want. It’s a theme that’s particularly relevant in today’s economy where many graduates are discovering that all their effort in higher education has not only failed to land them their dream job but any job.
But any chance of protagonist Ryden Malby (Alexis Bledel) being that every-post grad goes down in flames within the first twenty minutes. College can you leave inadequately prepared for job-hunting but Ryden’s back-story is a list of qualities never reflected in her on-screen character. It’s not that she’s nervous or ill-prepared. She’s flat-out incompetent and she doesn’t deserve to get a job. Her impressive resume is lacks any credibility for her various accolades and internships when she’s dim-witted enough to ask an overweight woman if she’s pregnant during a job interview. The film doesn’t care that it tears the credibility from the character; it made a cute and completely unoriginal joke! Even when she’s supposedly “at her best” when applying for her dream job at a publishing company (so she can discover “The Great American Novel”-ugh), her answer for why she wants to work there is so stock and impersonal that I would never hire her in a million years. Of course, at this mega-publishing company, she’s interviewed not by someone in HR but by a VP, because that’s how it works. I know research can be difficult and time-consuming but this is goddamn general knowledge. How are we supposed to relate to Ryden when even the most basic elements of a job hunt are foreign to the filmmakers? (Of course, later in the third act, Ryden gets the job anyway)
So what’s the secret of Ryden’s success? Sure, she’s confident but she’s confident in the same way that a Donald Rumsfeld or a Dick Cheney is confident-they don’t live in reality. Ryden is the kind of character who signs a lease for a luxury high-rise apartment when she doesn’t even have her dream job, let alone the possibility for a fallback job that would help her make rent along with purchasing all her posh furniture she so clearly deserves because for Ryden, life is a meritocracy. She thinks that all success is based on merit and even if she had any merit, a real person wouldn’t be so naïve as to think that you can succeed without building relationships, making contacts, and working your way up from the bottom-rung.
Her previous success doesn’t come from family connections but her family does let her move back home although they would never cramp her individuality by trying to help her be an independent adult basically her family is basically hippies who don’t care about anything other than themselves. Like Ryden, her family is in no way believable but it’s even worse when there’s absolutely no trace of her family’s outlandish behavior in her character. That’s because Ryden is “real” while her family is “quirky”. It’s clear that the filmmakers could hardly find any humor in Ryden’s story beyond making her dress in a funny bellhop costume at her father’s luggage store or just making her look clumsy. Instead, we’re witness to all of her family’s wacky misadventures like her dad trying to sell stolen belt buckles! Or her family buying a busted coffin (that clumsy ol’ Ryden knocked it over!) and putting it in their front yard! But it gets even better because they take that coffin and turn it into a soap box derby for her young brother! This isn’t matter-of-fact for the Malbys but something they seem to strive for. It’s not about being responsible or even having a basic level of human understanding. It’s about not conforming and loving it! At one point, the Malbys start chanting their last name as a cheer in the car as they drive home. It’s exactly like the O’Doyles in “Billy Madison” chanting “O’Doyle Rules!” before their car goes off a cliff. If the Malbys had gone off a cliff after chanting their own last name and that ended the movie, “Post Grad” would be one of my favorite movies of all-time.
Instead, the film moves from incessantly annoying to down-right offensive in its third act. Malby’s best friend is Adam (Zach Gilford) and he makes no secret of his love for her even though she knows she won’t reciprocate. It’s okay because he’ll drive her wherever she needs to go and even give her footrubs and sing to her. That’s not love; that’s pathetic and slightly creepy. It’s not only unclear what he sees her romantically (other than Alexis Bledel being kind of cute in an uninteresting-kind-of-way) but why he would be friends with her when she offers him nothing other than the obvious advice that he should go to law school in New York because he was accepted. But if he went to New York, then she may not realize that she’s secretly in love with him! Best to stay in his dead-end job working at his father’s grocery store just in case Malby comes to her senses.
The one time when he actually asks something of her-to come to his band’s performance at a small local club-she flakes on him and that’s the last straw so he’s gonna go to law school rather than be her bitch for the rest of his miserable life. It would almost be like he grew a backbone except at this point it’s more of a petulant and petty response to Ryden’s behavior than him doing something for himself instead of for her.
Ryden’s pretty low but after she finds solace in her magical and hilarious family, the publishing company calls! And it’s the VP again! They need to hire an assistant editor right away and Ryden’s rival was too snotty and Ryden looks like just the doormat they need! Success! Ryden starts her job at the publishing company but it’s not all it was cracked up to be. She works hard but it’s not what she imagined!
She now has her dream job and even though she did absolutely nothing over the course of the film to earn it, she’s still unhappy. She keeps calling Adam but he’s not answering! That’s never happened before! Usually he’s over with a pizza and a footrub five seconds after she calls because he was probably outside her window watching her. Even worse, she drove up to him in an ice cream truck to tell him how sorry she is and he still won’t be her bitch again! How can she do something so quirky and he’s still hurt?
Depressed, her father comes in and tells Malby that the only way to really live life is to do something crazy. It’s a really eye-opening moment for the audience because we now understand that the Malbys and the filmmakers have no understanding about how “crazy” is different from “completely fucking stupid”. So Ryden makes a decision: she’ll quit her dream job and fly across the country to be with Adam in New York and she’ll just find a new job at a publishing company there. Never mind that companies love it when you quit with no notice after only working there for a few months. Plus, since Ryden’s clearly so skilled at job-hunting, she should find work in no time. What’s important is that she left her dream job so she could be with her man because he was ignoring her. In the nightmare world that is “Post Grad”, that’s not horrific, depressing, and offensive. That’s “love”. That’s where “Post Grad” ends and that’s why every time I see a poster or standee for the film, I want to set it on fire.
Rating —– F