College graduate Ryden Malby (Alexis Bledel) fails to land her dream job at a prestigious publishing firm. With her carefully conceived career plan in ruins, she has no choice but to move back with her parents, Walter (Michael Keaton) and Carmella Malby (Jane Lynch, a.k.a. show choir-hating Coach Sue off Glee), quirky kid brother Hunter (Bobby Coleman) and her ailing but still feisty Grandma (showbiz legend Carol Burnett), where she is soon torn between the affections of childhood friend Adam (Zach Gilford) and a sexy Brazilian neighbour (Rodrigo Santoro). Between coping with personal problems, Ryden struggles to land a steady job amidst the recession ridden marketplace and get her life back on track.
Post Grad marked an inauspicious live action debut for animator Vicky Jenson, co-director of Shrek (2001). Widely panned by critics - although Roger Ebert was a notable enthusiast - the film was largely ignored by filmgoers but is not without some merits, slight as they are. That screenwriter Kelly Fremon addresses the twenty-something malaise is worth some praise given this tricky theme is routinely scorned by the middle-aged, impatient mainstream of society. Each year scores of college graduates find their dreams crushed by the harsh realities of the modern marketplace, making the subject well worth exploring. While Post Grad certainly falls short of the penetrating insights delivered by The Graduate (1967) or Garden State (2004) a great many of its pointed observations ring true: how difficult it is to gauge an interview, the naivety of graduates fed unrealistic expectations, the unfortunate hostility of an established older generation towards eager, enthusiastic college kids. The problem is the filmmakers chose to bury these sporadically trenchant observations beneath the most trite rom-com clichés alongside an over-emphasis on the antics of the wacky Malby family.
Bambi-eyed, heart-meltingly lovely Alexis Bledel delivers an exuberant and ingratiating performance, which helps given the gags flop like so many lead balloons. Jenson’s background in animation ensures the film stays visually interesting but the plot proves too prosaic to engage, shifting from overfamiliar romantic misunderstandings to increasingly convoluted zany situations when Ryden’s initial problems were compelling enough. Fremon’s script works overtime to ensure love interest Adam comes across sympathetic as he grapples not only with unrequited love but his unattentive dad (J.K. Simmons) and feeling torn between law school and a career in music. As portrayed by Zach Gilford however he emerges simply annoying and dull and eventually loses all credibility when he accuses Ryden of being fixated on her future to the detriment of their (non-existent) relationship. Dishearteningly, the film seems to support this view, opting for cheap “family comes first” sentiment and abandoning the more complex aspects of Ryden’s dilemma. Feminists will likely balk at the climax which seemingly implies our heroine abandons her dreams for a life of domesticity.
The film is more bland than offensive though and in its better moments - notably an encounter between Ryden and the aggressive, over-achieving rival (Catherine Reitman, daughter of executive producer Ivan Reitman) who snagged her dream job - packs an endearingly gentle tenaciousness, much like its heroine, liable to leave this pleasant, if forgettable Sunday teatime viewing. Granted that is not much but in an era of obnoxiously laddish comedies starved of anything resembling human feeling, some viewers may find themselves in a position much like the job-starved desperate young graduate and take what they can get.