RUMOR HAS IT, a dreary pseudo-sequel to 1968’s THE GRADUATE, tacks uncertainly between the far-fetched and the cliché as it hedges its bets rather than sharpens its claws with a story that dishonors the memory of that iconic classic.
The action picks up in 1997 when Sarah (Jennifer Anniston) flies home from New York for her sister’s wedding in Pasadena. In tow she has her fiancé Jeff (Mark Ruffalo), who is understandably concerned that Sarah would rather not wear her engagement ring, and is, furthermore, in a state of high terror over what it represents. Things are going to get more stressful for Sarah. In the course of her stay in the family home, she learns several things, including that she was born a hair-breadth shy of nine months after her parent’s wedding and that the week before her mother said “I do”, she had run off to Mexico for a fling with someone other than her husband-to-be. Why it took her so long to count the months between her parents’ wedding anniversary and her birthday, or why it just happens to be this particular time that the fling comes up is just two of the reasons this flick is such a mess. It further comes to Sarah’s attention that the guy who wrote the novel on which THE GRADUATE was based was a high school pal of her mother’s and that there was a guy, Beau Burroughs (Kevin Costner), with the same initials as the hero of the book and movie. Naturally, because otherwise there would be no flick (an option someone should have seriously considered) she assumes that her grandmother (Shirley MacLaine), who prefers to be called by her given name of Catherine by her granddaughters, is Mrs. Robinson, that her late mother was Elaine, and she, well, she’s worried about who her daddy really is.
If only Anniston were capable of doing more than squinting her eyes and cocking her head to the side when she wants to register deep feeling, or of doing more than barking a line in an attempt to render it funny, or of doing something, anything, other than engage in an oddly unrhythmic full-body spasm to convey humorous discombobulation.
To be fair, though, this is not a script that is capable of inspiring anyone. Ruffalo, a fine actor capable of moving an audience through a veritable gamut of emotions while eschewing the trap of seeming manipulative, here seems to be trying to hide behind his eyebrows. Costner, who delivered a first-rate performance recently in THE UPSIDE OF ANGER, perhaps decided that, having done that, there was no need to make an effort here and phoned it in, as they say. Using speed dial. As for Mena Suvari as the younger sister whose nuptials set all this in motion, she is a googly-eyed jack-in-the-box with a baby-doll voice and feathers for brains. The only question that comes to mind while watching her is whether she took the role out of some sort of denial or of some deep-seated self-loathing.
These are shallow, vacuous people who have somewhere along the way confused narcissism with introspection, the result being that we the audience are forced to watch them struggle across the vast wastelands of their titanic egos. Except for MacLaine, whose character isn’t confused at all about her narcissism, but rather has embraced it, wallowed in it, and made it the reason to wake up every morning with a smile on her face, okay a smirk. She is the best thing in this mess, leveling anyone who irks her with an economical turn of phrase, and offering to rustle of pots of bourbon instead of tea and sympathy for those who don’t. A braver approach would have been to make it all about her and give her a better script to work with. Alas, they don’t make films about women of a certain age in Hollywood, at least none that allow them to be vibrant and fun rather than silly and cute.
RUMOR HAS IT is all high concept and no film. It can’t even get something as simple as geographical or cultural facts about the San Francisco Bay area right. It’s sloppy, it’s lazy, and it’s downright irritating.