Jarv’s Birthday Series Redux: Post Grad (2009)
Due to a small balls up in Wikipedia, I had Der Baader-Meinhof Komplex marked in as my 2009 Birthday film. Unfortunately, I happened to see that in the UK in October of 2008, and the release that Wikipedia was referring to was a film festival in New York. This meant that my journey through the annals of film released on my Birthday is incomplete, and I have to pick another film released as near to 23rd August as possible in 2009. The Candidates were:
- Inglorious Basterds
- Post Grad
- World’s Greatest Dad
Now, none of these particularly filled me with joy. We’ve a long and documented hatred of Cokey McFrankensteinhead’s ode to self indulgence masquerading as a war film, and I’d rather not see it. Post Grad is, on paper, a hideous romantic comedy with one of the Gilmore Girls. World’s Greatest Dad stars walking bathroom rug Robin Williams, and is therefore to be avoided. Which left Shorts as last film standing, and I have never even heard of it. However, being me, I then completely forgot about redressing the balance. Until yesterday.
Sunday afternoons are made for mooching around and doing nothing in particular. I was sitting on the sofa flicking through channels when I blundered across Film4 advertising that the next film on was Post Grad. This rang a bell, and a cursory search of Imdb reminded me that this was one of the candidates. So, this seemed to me to be a god-given opportunity to clean up the list and put this notion to bed without putting in any effort at all.
This was a mistake.
Contains self-indulgence and Spoilers below.
Post Grad tells what is a fairly common story, and one that many people face every year. Hell, I faced it back in the day. Ryden (Alexis Bledl) has just graduated with an English Degree. She came 2nd in her class, and has amassed a vast amount of CV polishing internships at various publishing houses. She has landed an interview for her dream job, which the entitled cow thinks she is nailed on to get. This thinking has led her to make the mistake of writing a cheque for an apartment that she can’t ever afford, even if she gets the aforementioned job. To make matters worse, on the way to the interview, her car gets smashed at a crossroads. Once she turns up for the interview, she realises that she is but one of dozens of applicants. The inevitable happens and her chances are extinguished within seconds in favour of obvious hate-figure Jessica (Catherine Reitman). So far, so good, and quite like the experience of many a recent graduate. To console herself, she holes up in a supermarket with her best friend Adam (Zach Gilford) to eat ice-cream. His father owns the Supermarket, which leads to an inevitably embarrassing scene when he’s caught almost in flagrante with one of the checkout women.
Forced to move back home to her eccentric family (Michael Keaton and Jane Lynch play her parents), the remainder of the film follows her less than entertaining experiences with life, love and the trauma of getting a job. Firstly, she takes a demeaning job at her father’s luggage shop, then becomes PA to a Brazilian Director (Rodrigo Santoro). When he walks off the commercial he’s shooting due to a marketing douche asking him to film the guacamole maker in the style of the Matrix (Bullet Time), she goes with him, neglecting her best friend’s gig and the dinner they had planned. Adam, unsurprisingly, is not impressed and tells her to do one. Her father is then arrested for receiving stolen belt buckles (an insanely quirky and quite hateful touch in the film), and immediately after bailing him out she is offered Jessica’s job, without an interview. Wow, how lucky, yet for some reason her life just isn’t complete. So, after a heart to heart with sleazebag next door, she realises that she needs Adam and borrows an ice cream van to win him back. All goes swimmingly, except, clearly due to being sick to the gills of waiting for her, he’s decided to bugger off to New York and Law School (a wise decision considering his total absence of musical talent). What will she do now? Well, the convention dictates that she has to throw in her job (helpfully shown to be pretty crap during a montage, which includes her picking chewing gum off the soles of her bosses shoes, just to make sure that it isn’t really in doubt) which she does with the blessing of her parents. Everyone lives happily ever after.
This film is nauseating. Written by an intern at Fox called Kelly Fremon, this is a sickening and painful piece of crap from the entitlement generation. The problems here all stem from the writing, which simultaneously tries to grab our sympathy for the main character, yet fails to make her anything other than a selfish, conceited, entitled bitch. Take the job interview, for example. She can’t be that fucking dumb that she thinks that she was the only person recruited by a major publishing house in LA, surely? Yet she does. Then, once rejected, does she try anything that anyone else does when faced with unemployment, i.e. other publishing houses, a different career, or even fucking temping? No, does she fuck. She won’t even contemplate moving cities to, say, New York, to try to get a job in her dream industry- it’s basically this one publishing house or nothing. The film flirts with her taking other jobs in the form of working for her dad, which should be suitably demeaning and thereby win our sympathy for her, yet it doesn’t because she so obviously thinks she is too good for it. Then, when she gets the “dream job” showing a montage of the trauma that she’s going through by having to *gasp* fetch coffee, or work late, or even *shudder* do photocopying is frankly insulting to the intelligence. Let me let you in to a little secret, love: all jobs are shit, but entry level jobs are particularly shit. It’s called serving time, and as you rise up the ladder and gain experience you spend less and less time with your head in a photocopier.
There are far bigger problems with the script than this, though. Firstly, let me talk about the timescale of the film. I would imagine that her graduation is sometime in the summer, so let’s be generous and say late June is the opening scene of the film. The closing scene is just after he’s moved to New York for his first term, so again let’s be generous and say early September. Therefore the trials and tribulations that this poor middle class duck underwent took place within a time period of, er, 2 months and a bit at absolute most. Her suffering and lack of job opportunities that caused her such angst for such a long period of time lasted less than two fucking months! Personally, I found this insulting, as when I graduated I sold door to door for the summer, before landing my “dream job” in September- and I stayed there for the better part of 5 years. How on earth is her life so fucking tough when she was unemployed for approximately one month after university? Have a look at youth unemployment figures in Spain, say, and tell me that two months is remotely comparable to the real spectre of unemployment in the 21st Century for graduates. It isn’t, and I suspect this is entirely down to the “experiences” of one K. Fremon, who I would take a large bet spent about 2 hours unemployed before daddy or someone pulled a few strings for her. This mentality really gets on my nerves- it isn’t enough to work to get the dream job, but you have to have it right now- there’s no sense of perspective, and nothing seems to be earned. A point, incidentally, which the central character doesn’t learn.
The next problem with the writing is that the film is desperately trying to be a quirky indie Juno style rom com. Therefore it isn’t populated with normal human beings. Keaton, for example, is acting his skin off as the father, but the part is so fucking bizarre, and events happening to him just so off putting that it feels overly “cute”. The two best examples of this are the arrest over the stupid belt buckle thing (seriously, couldn’t he have just been handling stolen Samsonites or something) and the soap box derby. I have no idea, but TV tells me it is so, whether or not these things do take place in America, but I will bet a large amount of money that no child in the history of Soap Box Derbies has ever ridden a coffin on wheels down the course.
The final problem with the writing is Adam. There is no way Adam would wait around for this conceited cow, and frankly the only reason he does is because he’s a walking romantic comedy convention. He’s the oh-so-sensitive best friend that’s loved her forever, and she just doesn’t realise that the one for her is right under her nose. Gilford tries hard, and is reasonably likeable, but there’s no question that he would be better off without her, furthermore, there’s no semblance of burgeoning romance between the pair- she literally makes the decision to up sticks to New York to hook up with him on a whim. The only reason she does so that I can see is that the film has to meet the conventions of the genre. On the other hand, the next door neighbour, who she clearly does have a thing for, and a connection with, buggers off to Rio without even a nod from the cow. I honestly believe that a potentially more interesting, not to mention honest, film would have had her bin the job, and go to Brazil with him before travelling.
The cast are always going to struggle with roles like these. Keaton and Lynch are solid professionals and put in as much of a shift as they reasonably can, with Lynch having the most believable scene in the entire film. Nevertheless, Post Grad isn’t about the family, it’s about poor old Ryden and as such the success of the film, even given the problems with the writing, rests on Bledl’s shoulders. Just a pity she’s a hateful, whiny, self-indulgent little cow with a voice that kills birds. I’m not convinced that casting Bledl was a good idea, because her default expression seems to be “on the verge of tears” and the film comes across as melodramatic and irritating. It gets to the point that you can see her looking almost winsome when she’s meant to be happy. This is a truly rotten performance in a rotten film, but I do blame the script more than the actress.
Overall, Post Grad is a terrible film. It’s populated by obnoxious characters (why have a hate figure when EVERYONE is so hateful?), and screams of selfishness and entitlement. The world does not owe the likes of Ryden a favour, and by showing the trauma of her dream job in a montage when if you work out the chronology of it she was there for a week is painfully insulting to the intelligence. I seriously dislike this film, but in retrospect it isn’t fair on the cast to give it the Orangutan of Doom. Instead, I’m giving it 1 P45 note out of a possible 4.
That’s 2009 now completed for the Birthday Series, hallelujah!
So until next time,