What would you do if everything you had worked for was just … slipping away? If your dreams were just beyond grasp? What is your priority in life?
Ryden Malby seems like every employer's dream candidate: pretty, funny, driven, smart, and down-to-earth—an obsessive lover of books but also personable and willing to work. Her whole life, she's studied and worked hard toward college graduation and a job at the most prestigious publishing house in Los Angeles, but things aren't working out the way she expected. She moves home to keep job-hunting, but between her eccentric family and a dismal series of interviews, her only lifeline to sanity is her best friend Adam. That is, until she meets the sexy Brazilian infomercial director living across the street.
Ryden's series of bad choices and mishaps lead her toward a version of herself she barely recognizes. She isn't there for Adam, who values her friendship more than she does, as he struggles to decide which future to pursue. She is disdainful of her family, whose quirks seem less lovable by the day. Then serendipity strikes, and it looks as though all will be well. But Ryden has yet another big lesson to learn, and it will take her family to teach her this one.
The story is enjoyable, if a bit a tired: something of a cross between The Devil Wears Prada and Little Miss Sunshine—lacking the former's brilliantly chilly Streep performance and the latter's zany originality—with a dash of When Harry Met Sally's infinitely re-asked question about friendships between men and women.
Post Grad taps into an experience many shared, even before the recession—the after-graduation ennui sometimes suffered by upwardly mobile but not terribly privileged children of the working class—but doesn't succeed in doing anything original or particularly interesting. The Malby family is not much wackier than most families, and Ryden's plight is no different from most recent graduates today. The solutions proposed by the film are ultimately predictable, and they don't offer anything more to a hapless graduate sitting in the audience than the hope that they will ultimately luck out.
The lessons Ryden learns are well worth repeating: love your family, even if they embarrass you; don't desert your old friends for new ones; keep your promises; the best choice you can make in life is to love others more than yourself.
But while Ryden's final choice seems admirable, it also is unsettling. While giving up your dream to value another person is brave and noble, it is also a false dichotomy. Christians believe in the importance of community and relationship, but also believe that opportunities to exercise talents and gifts should not be taken lightly. Ryden's choice may have been the right one, but her story could also prompt an impressionable young person to ignore God-given opportunities. People are important—and so is vocation.
The film's greatest merit is its cast, who are worth the story's re-tread. Bledel once again plays a slightly naïve brainy beauty, but she's so good at it that nobody really minds. Zach Gilford is a refreshingly non-pretty best guy friend; Carol Burnett is underused but excellent as the self-absorbed neurotic grandmother. But Michael Keaton steals the show as the lovably out-of-touch dad who truly wants the best for his daughter.
Post Grad is lighthearted and friendly. It offers well-worn platitudes in a pleasing-enough package, just in time for the young person who's graduated into recession—who might benefit from seeing their own struggles mirrored onscreen and laughing a little.Discussion starters
- What challenges or events have you been looking forward to and preparing for your whole life?
- Have you ever let your own goals or dreams overtake your relationships? What happened? What is the right response when this happens?
- What do you think of Ryden's final choice? Was she right? If you were presented with that choice, what would you do?
The Family CornerFor parents to consider
Post Grad is rated PG-13 for sexual situations and brief strong language. Premarital sex is suggested, and there are a few profanities. Ryden and the neighbor, who have only just met, are interrupted by the family while making out, and they clearly hadn't intended to stop there. Ryden also apparently moves in with Adam at the end of the film.
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