Post Grad

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Posted August 13, 2009 in Film

Trend pieces in the N.Y. Times act like it’s a new phenomenon for college grads to move home after striking out at their first round of dream job interviews. Instead, it’s a cycle as familiar as the living room sofa, with every generation having a different excuse for crawling back into the nest. For The Graduate’s Benjamin Braddock, it was paralysis; he wanted to escape an age of immediate adulthood. This year, Braddock would be eligible for the senior citizen discount, and the world has raised an entirely different graduate: Ryden Malby (Alexis Bledel), a hyper-motivated English major groomed to take on the world. Malby’s parents, played by Michael Keaton and Jane Lynch, have raised her in the best model of ’90s parenting—they’ve nurtured her to reach for her dreams without the gloomy reality check that she’ll have to fight other smart, talented kids to even get her foot in the door of that glossy literary agency (an occupation screenwriters always find far more noble than engineering or nursing). Bledel, a young, gorgeous actress still trying to break out of kiddie roles after The Gilmore Girls, invests real trauma and sweat in Ryden’s struggle—even if we think it’s cliché, we never doubt that Ryden feels like she’s invented loserdom. There is a real need to tell a story about how this generation, so nursed on high expectations, has rudely discovered that not only aren’t there many good jobs, there’s fewer and fewer mentors as the employment crisis has everyone clutching tightly to their own rung rather than offer a helping hand. Generation Y has been sold a fairy tale, and they could start a revolt if everyone wasn’t so busy updating their Facebook status. But screenwriter Kelly Fremon, working from Emily Cassel’s novel, is more interested in romance than resumes. Halfway through, the film changes course to obsess over whether Ryden should pursue a hunky infomercial director (Rodrigo Santoro) or finally take note of her best friend (Zach Gilford) and his undying, Ducky-ish crush. Meanwhile, director Vicky Jenson thinks she’s making a wacky family comedy about the Malbys, a gang of synthetic eccentrics redeemed only by great casting that includes Carol Burnett as Ryden’s Grandma Maureen. The good news is that even when the economy is in the tank, the lovely Bledel can still snare a date, in case anyone was seriously worried she might die a spinster. That and the ending left me wondering if they meant to make this not for 2009 but 1959.

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