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Ryden Malby has it all figured out. Since she was a little girl, Ryden has been diligently working at what she affectionately calls The Plan: Study hard. Get a scholarship. Go to the best college. Avoid the party scene. Graduate.
And the crown jewel in The Plan? Landing an editorial job at prestigious publisher Happerman & Browning. "Books are all I've ever known and everything I love," she gushes in her interview there. "I can't imagine doing anything else."
Happily ever after, meet Ryden Malby. Or not.
Her plan starts to unravel when archrival Jessica Bard ("My own personal Darth Vader," Ryden calls her) lands the job Ryden felt she was destined for. And instead of a posh apartment in L.A.'s Century City, the new grad faces the indignity of moving home with no job in sight.
But it's not all bad.
Keeping Ryden company amid her existential malaise is long-suffering best friend Adam. His dreams about the future are as hazy as Ryden's are laser sharp, with one exception: His hope of winning Ryden's heart.
And then there's Ryden's family, a clan that's equal parts earnest and eccentric, well-meaning and just plain wacky.
Clearly, Ryden's path through postgraduate unemployment isn't the one she would have chosen. But it's a journey that just might include some life lessons The Plan never could have taught her.
Sometimes not getting what we want is the best possible thing that can happen. That's definitely true in Ryden's life. The young woman's narcissistic focus upon her dream life has rendered her incapable of seeing or thinking about much else. But her disappointment after graduation gradually helps her open up to some important messages.
Some of those come courtesy of her father, Walter. Ryden's dad excels at unintentionally embarrassing his daughter, of course. But he also invites her to come to work with him and encourages her to consider a position in marketing with a start-up company. As Ryden hems and haws and drags her heels because those opportunities don't look anything like what she'd hoped to do, Dad helps her learn the values of flexibility and perseverance as he repeatedly reminds her, "Life throws curve balls." Late in the film, he encourages an unorthodox idea of Ryden's, telling her it's the best one she's ever had.
Adam, meanwhile, provides a listening ear and shoulder to cry on. But he's got enough self-respect to walk away when it seems Ryden is incapable of focusing on anyone besides herself. "You're so completely obsessed with your future," he tells her, "that you forget about everyone you're supposed to give a s‑‑‑ about." Swearing aside, Adam's tough love assessment is on the money, and it helps open Ryden's eyes to how she's been behaving.
A similar lesson comes courtesy of next-door neighbor David Santiago. He's a thirtysomething infomercial director from Brazil who takes a mostly sexual interest in Ryden. More on that not-so-positive part of the storyline appears in this review's "Sexual Content." The point I'll make here is that David eventually decides that his family back in Brazil is more important than his filmmaking aspirations. "What you do with your life is really just one-half of the equation," he tells Ryden. "The other half—the more important half—is who you're with when you're doing it."
Walter Malby has his self-absorbed moments as well. But he shines as a Dad when he fixes his daughter's damaged car and helps his young son, Hunter, build a box car derby racer. And Adam's father, who manages a grocery store, tells his son, "I want more for you" when it comes to his vocational aspirations.
Ryden says sarcastically of a frozen ice cream treat, "It's like God is giving birth in my mouth." Another joke references "the passion of the guacamole." While shopping for just the right casket, Grandma stretches out in one and asks her grandson, "What do you think of Grandma spending her eternal slumber in this one?" The salesman says that the personalized panels on the one she's considering will be with her "right through the afterlife." The song "Amazing Grace" plays in the casket shop.
David plies Ryden with a bit of wine and flattery as a prelude to seducing her. His shirt comes off and passionate kissing ensues. The tryst likely would have gone farther, but Ryden's entire family shows up looking for her. By then, her shirt is off, too, and we see a brief glimpse of her in her bra (as does her little brother and the rest of the family).
In paintings at David's home, nude women's backsides are visible. Ryden often wears cleavage-baring shirts and spaghetti-strap camisoles. Trying on a dress, she asks Adam to zip it and we see her bare back.
Dad gives his daughter a couple of awkward lectures about the necessity of using "protection" and tries to scare her by talking about the horrors of herpes. He also warns her to "stay away from the whole penile area." Grandma chimes in, saying, "Condoms are your best friend."
Ryden and Adam get spun around violently after a large truck hits her car. Walter accidentally runs over David's cat, killing it (off camera). Hunter apparently steps in the dead animal's remains (also, thankfully, off camera). We hear squishing sounds during a lengthy burial scene that involves Walter trying to shove the dead feline—unceremoniously entombed in a pizza box—into a hole in the ground that's too small.
Crude or Profane Language
One f-word. About 20 s-words. God's name is taken in vain a dozen or so times (a half-dozen of which are paired with "d‑‑n"). Other profanities include "a‑‑," "h‑‑‑" and "b‑‑ch."
Drug and Alcohol Content
At a reception following graduation, Walter seems borderline tipsy. (Several bottles of beer can be seen, augmenting the champagne that's also available.) At a college party, students drink alcohol, and we see a keg being carried in. Ryden makes an offhand comment about the drinking game Beer Pong. David and Ryden share wine on several occasions. We see David put a wine bottle down as he's driving. Likewise, a bottle of some kind of alcohol is visible with Adam and Ryden.
A group of men drinking in a car pull up next to the Malbys, who have a casket strapped to the roof of their car; one of the men pours out some wine, apparently in honor of the dead person he thinks might be in the casket. (The scene takes place at an intersection in front of a liquor store.)
Other Negative Elements
A series of gags revolves around how odd Hunter's behavior is, including (we hear) licking other children. Mom fears that he's "weird," but doesn't know what to do about it.
Walter is a budding entrepreneur of sorts who unwittingly purchases boxes of kitschy belt buckles that turn out to be stolen. When he isn't willing to give the buckles back to their rightful owner (the two have a shouting match over them), he ends up in jail. At the police station, his wife tells an officer, "He's not a criminal, he's just a moron." Grandma adds, "I told you in 1976 not to marry Walter."
Elsewhere, an over-the-top infomercial plays on Latino stereotypes. And Adam and Ryden apparently break into the grocery store that Adam's dad manages, eating ice cream and drinking wine.
Before Hunter's box car derby, his dad advises him to take a "balls to the wall" approach to the race, then asks him not to tell his mother he said that.
Mom Malby thinks her son is an odd duck. I think Post Grad is an odd movie. Much of the time, it models a sweet sensibility that reminded me quite a lot of the recent (PG-rated) Confessions of a Shopaholic. Like that film, Post Grad features a likeable young woman (Gilmore Girls and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants star Alexis Bledel) awkwardly inching toward responsible adulthood. Lightweight comedic situations provide a platform for some solid messages about making our way in the world. Among those are the notions that things don't always go as planned, families are important and life is about sharing it with those we care about most.
But it's not all sweetness and light. Because parts of this film also feel like (the R-rated tragicomedy) Little Miss Sunshine, both in terms of the Malby family's occasionally bizarre behavior and some of the film's edgier elements. David's attempt to seduce Ryden, for example, is predictable but nevertheless creepy. Grandma's shout-out to condom use feels equally unwarranted. And then there are 40 or so profanities—including an f-word.
An odd duck, like I said. Too crass for most families—and everyone else who exercises even moderate discernment when it comes to moviegoing. Too tame to get critical buzz from online fanboys who'd rather see The Hangover 2. And too clichéd for the art crowd that wants a little leather to chew on in between the laugh lines.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Alexis Bledel as Ryden Malby; Zach Gilford as Adam Davies; Michael Keaton as Walter Malby; Jane Lynch as Carmella Malby; Bobby Coleman as Hunter Malby; Carol Burnett as Grandma Maureen; Rodrigo Santoro as David Santiago
Vicky Jenson ( Shrek)
20th Century Fox
August 21, 2009
January 12, 2010