The unemployment rate is expected to hit 10% this year. Companies and consumers are buckling down to spend less—meaning less job opportunities, fewer benefits, and lower salaries. Not a great time for young college graduates. The immediate future is a bleak and scary place, filled with endless interviews, student loan payments, and no silver lining on that college diploma. Just don’t tell that to the makers of Post Grad.
At the opening of Post Grad, a flurry of Web 2.0 animation provides the background of our heroine’s perfectly planned life: overachieving Ryden Malby (Alexis Bledel) will graduate from college, land a prestigious job at a top publishing firm, and live in a spacious luxury apartment in Los Angeles. Her biggest problems are that her “frienemy” has claimed valedictorian, and her college best friend Adam (Zack Gilford) longs for a romance. Quickly, though, reality rushes in, and she is left jobless, homeless, carless, and with only one option: to move back to her parents’ house and search for a job and a life.
Ryden’s family is a group of quirky (but entertaining) misfits. Her father (Michael Keaton) is a schemer prone to blurting out socially isolating phrases. Her mother (Jane Lynch) is preoccupied with her brother’s “weirdness.” (He is in the habit of licking children in his class and communicating via sock puppet.) And Ryden’s chain smoking grandmother (Carol Burnett) is intent on shopping for her state-of-the-art casket with her oxygen tank in tow. Living with this family could have created comic gems similar to Little Miss Sunshine or Juno. Unfortunately, though, the focus of Post Grad remains on very normal Ryden’s very typical quest for a job.
In her feature length live-action debut, director Vicky Jenson (Shrek, Shark Tale) hoped to capture the angst and frustration of the post-college scramble to put life in order: the feelings of inadequacy, fear over finances, and the never-ending difficulty of constantly trying to impress many hiring managers at companies any job prospect shouldn’t actually care about. However, this was executed in more entertaining and realistic ways in other films (Reality Bites, Say Anything), and the film comes off as pandering and a bit desperate.
Alexis Bledel’s popular Rory Gilmore is essentially reprised in her portrayal of Post Grad’s Ryden Malby. Her very PG-rated experiences turn what could have been a unique dark comedy into an elongated family-friendly sitcom. And although it is morbidly entertaining to watch a “Disnified” character suffer in our reality for awhile, the film misses its chance to connect with its audience.
Post Grad is filled with a slew of talented comedic actors who are regrettably under-used. There are several truly laugh out loud funny moments, several contrived attempts at humor, and one bit about a cat in such poor taste I found myself counting the (many) minutes until it was over. But the true differentiator of Post Grad is its tone. In a market saturated with R-rated bro-mances and hipster independent comedies, this film dares to be neither. Instead, it is a mild and mainstream family friendly comedy with a better-than-average soundtrack. “Family friendly” is not necessarily a bad thing- just not a realistic narrative for this current, economic age.
Spoilers: As expected for a Disney-esque story, Ryden is given more than her fair share of chances. After her initial struggles, she soon lands a great job, learns what is truly important in life, and accomplishes it at the ripe age of 22. If only we all could be so lucky to live in the Enchanted Happily Ever After.