Post Grad (2009)

The following post contains spoilers for the 2009 sort of romantic comedy Post Grad. I’m assuming almost no one but me cares, but just covering my bases.

Post Grad stars Alexis Bledel and Zach Gilford, of Gilmore Girls and Friday Night Lights fame, respectively. This, of course, means that the most immediate and urgent question the movie poses is whether or not Rory Gilmore and Matt Saracen would make a good couple. After pausing the movie for roughly three minutes to ponder this, I have decided that yes, yes I think they would be. The Gilmore’s close knit family would be refreshing for Matt and, in return, Matt’s down to earth Texan heart would bring some soulful levity that reminds Rory to relax a little. Furthermore, Matt still has the “artsy” (Jason Street’s words) credential to keep up with the Gilmore’s frenetic pop culture taste. In another world, Julie Taylor and Matt decided to stay on their separate paths, Matt continues his art career at SAIC and eventually meets Rory by chance when she’s in Chicago doing some investigative reporting on her pick of our corrupt politicians.

Now that I have spoken my truth on that issue, we can jump in to Post Grad, which opens with the powerful choice of giving us an intro to our protagonist, Ryden Malby (Alexis Bledel), via a vlog posted on her MySpace page. I love almost everything about that choice except the name Ryden Malby, which sounds like someone stroking out. Anyway, Ryden vlogs about how psyched she is for graduation as it is the beginning of the final phase of her life plan:

  1. Study to get a “fatty” scholarship
  2. Keep up good grades in college to keep that scholarship
  3. Get a job at Happerman & Browning, the best publishing company in LA.

It’s always been Ryden’s dream to discover the next great American novel, which I think may be the embodiment of the sweet spot in between ambitious and practical. There’s a shot of Ryden’s peers in their black caps and gowns walking into the building where graduation is presumably taking place. Meanwhile, Ryden is walking against the flow of traffic in her blue graduation dress, no gown. I was waiting for there to be a dramatic development but Ryden just stops, turns to the direction of the camera, and smiles. I think the scene was for some visual symbolism about how Ryden stands out from the rest or is forging her own path, but as I watched the movie, it just seemed like a precursor to some more of her inexplicable behavior.

Probably the best example of the oddly senseless things that Ryden does comes when she decided to sign an apartment lease before her job interview at Happerman and Browning because she is so confident that she’ll get hired. This moment was truly so wild and unhinged that I almost signed out of my (read: my mom’s) HBOGo account and called this one a bust. I held on for the craft, though, and my efforts were for the most part unrewarded.

Of course, Ryden doesn’t get the job because that would be too easy and, of course, her nemesis since she was in the third grade (who she also went to college with because why not) Jessica Bard gets the job instead. The entire movie is essentially a montage of Ryden being frustrated about not having a job, going on a series of failed job interviews, and seeing people around her succeed. It’s all cushioned by some “wacky” antics from her family – see the end of this post for my musings on her sociopathic little brother.

Ryden’s employment woes are further complicated by a half-baked love triangle between her, her neighbor David, and Adam, her best friend since childhood (who she went to college with, too, because everyone goes to University of Creston in this movie). Unfortunately, the men of this movie are essentially the same alpha dude character, just disguised by different packaging. David is an infomercial director and, after flirting with Ryden, offers her a job as an assistant on his commercial sets. She accepts and they immediately start hooking up, which might have worked in 2009 but felt deeply weird in 2018. Ryden’s first day on the job is for some offensive commercial about a guacamole related product and it is, predictably, a disaster. Basically, David gets in a fight with some corporate dude and quits on the spot. In the process of quitting, however, David literally grabs Ryden’s hand and drags her off set with him, giving her zero say in the matter. Ryden looks momentarily troubled but, don’t worry, David takes her to the beach for a fun little montage to make up for everything!

Meanwhile, Adam (who spends the entire movie wearing a necklace that looks like bungee cord) gets pissed at Ryden for forgetting about a gig he has at a bar. This is fair, but, in the process of shaming Ryden for ditching him, Adam essentially tells Ryden he’s been hanging around her just waiting for her to reciprocate his feelings. Ryden doesn’t feel the same way and, because of her disinterest, Adam declares he’s over their lifelong friendship. His exact words are “I don’t know what my future holds but I do know you’re not in it.” It should be noted that Adam speaks in rejected John Mayer lyrics. Anyway, Adam is supposed to be a soulful crooner with an introspective heart, but this moment undermines whatever charm the movie has built for him. He straight up admits that he’s stayed Ryden’s friend only because he was hoping she’d want more from him, too, and when he finally realizes that maybe, just maybe, she’s never going to see him in that way, he basically writes off their friendship as pointless. Adam lives in his made up friendzone where he nurses Nattys and plucks forelorningly along to Ryan Adams. I don’t understand why we can’t just leave him there. All of this is made all the more depressing when, after Ryden ends up getting a job at Happerman and Browning on a whim because Jessica was fired (sure), she decides to quit her dream job so she can follow Adam to New York where he’s going to attend Columbia Law School. Yes – Ryden, who has spent the entire movie in a tailspin about not getting the job at Happerman and Browning, decides to cast aside her aspirations and follow a dude she grew up with to New York because he effectively guilt tripped her into liking him.

Post Grad is a muddling movie, with very little character growth that is only made all the more stunted by a thin plot. So much of the movie’s runtime is made up of gags of some sort – the grandma goes coffin shopping for herself, Ryden’s dad fixes her car only to total it again, Ryden’s dad ends up going to prison for accidentally selling stolen belt buckles (this happens in the final act and is resolved within minutes with no explanation for why it was included in the movie). That so little of importance happens in this movie makes the ending so much more disappointing. Essentially the only motivating piece of the movie was Ryden getting her job and Ryden’s ambition and she chooses to sacrifice her lifelong plans and job she appears to really enjoy to follow a dude who basically negged her into loving him and following him to New York. Sure, it can be seen as free spirited or romantic, but given that Ryden’s entire character profile can be summed up as determined, it ultimately reads as a girl who places her boyfriend’s career ambitions before her own and follows him for some kind of moral support.

Despite Adam’s lightly chauvinistic and fedora wearing ways, he does provide the most poignant and relatable scene in the movie. Adam has a contentious relationship with his dad, played by pre-career glow up JK Simmons, who manages a grocery store. In one characteristically strained scene between the two, Adam’s dad asks Adam why he hasn’t opened his big envelope from Columbia, as it’s pretty clear it’s an acceptance envelope. Adam delivers one of the biggest unintentional LOLs of the movie (“it came a long way from New York… I’m letting it breathe”). It’s really because Adam isn’t sure if he wants to go to law school or pursue a music career and he and his dad have a fight about Adam’s life plan. Adam starts to snap on his dad for pushing him towards law school when Adam’s dad explains: “I just want more for you. Do you want to be like me? Come home from work every night at 11 o clock at night? Save your whole life so you can afford mortgage on a place like this?”

It’s probably the most interesting scene in the movie because it reminded me of one of the most difficult realizations of growing up: recognizing that parents are people, too, and that they also had dreams that didn’t necessarily come true. If you’re lucky enough to have parents that love and care for you, realizing that their life didn’t go as planned is pretty heart-wrenching. I think a part of growing up is gaining a new sympathy for your parents that you never had before. When you’re younger, you really can’t share much in common with your parents because you’ve barely experienced anything. As you get older, though, you’re able to understand the decisions your parents have made or mourn the opportunities they didn’t take because you’re now making choices with real gravity for the first time in your life. Sometimes it feels like there’s a role reversal – once you realize your parents have experienced pain and disappointment, you wish you could go back in time and protect them like they’ve always tried to protect you. Growing up necessitates that you begin to see yourself in your parents. It was so much easier being 12 and only viewing them as foils in your attempts to watch A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila.

The post grad phase of life feels like it has so much extra weight to it because when you’re constantly reminded that the completion of school generally means you’re entering the “real world,” every decision seems to have so. Much. Meaning. Even though we are still so young, there’s a feeling that any decision we make is entering a specific lane that will lead to a specific career or a specific quality of life. That definitely seems to have been Ryden’s mindset, and I guess she deserves her kudos for knowing that there is some time to figure yourself out and pursue something that’s not secure. Still, I do think that if you’re going to toss aside your career for someone, you should make sure it’s someone who doesn’t wear you down into reciprocating their feelings.

Final thoughts:

  • The little brother in this movie is going to grow up to be some sort of sociopath – they layer him with “quirks” to give him character depth but really they’re just pinging at the seven or nine or whatever it is signs of being a serial killer. He, apparently, has a problem where he licks other kids’ heads because he likes the taste, is implied to play with carcass of a dead cat, and says “cool” when he walks in on his sister hooking up with the neighbor dude. I understand that there wasn’t a lot of time or reason to really flesh out his character, but the attributes they gave him made him seem more like a lil’ Dahmer rather than a pesky little brother.
  • Both JK Simmons and Michael Keaton appeared in this film. In 2015, JK Simmons won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor and Michael Keaton was nominated for Best Actor. I know there is zero science to this and it is only representative of my borderline troubling ability to retain pop culture trivia, but I’m choosing to believe this movie is a springboard to strong career renaissances and Zach Gilford will one day get his respects beyond that one random Taylor Swift video he appeared in as a love interest

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