I am about to give you all a wonderful present for the holidays. It’s worth $11.00 to every person in your household. No need to thank me for my incredible generosity, it’s the least I can do. Okay, are you ready for your special gift?
Here it is:
Do not, under any circumstances, go see the new movie “Rumor Has It.”
There, I just saved you a nice piece of change and the agony of sitting through what I truly believe is one of the worst movies I’ve seen in my 46 years on the planet. Use the time you saved wisely, helping underprivileged moviegoers or working on a cautionary post for your blog entitled “How One of the Most Promising Ideas in Movie History Went So Terribly Wrong.”
This is not a film review, it’s a Public Service Announcement. I hate overly opinionated reviewers who try to tell their readers what to do. In general, I think everyone should make their own decisions about what movies to see, critics be damned. However, in this case, I urge you to trust me and stay away from this abomination.
I can’t tell you how much I was looking forward to seeing this film. I’ve been obsessed with Mike Nichols’ “The Graduate” since it first came out 38 years ago. I was lucky enough earlier this year to attend a reunion screening with the cast and crew at the Motion Picture Academy and though I’ve probably seen the film a hundred times, it felt as fresh and important as it did in 1967. We wondered why Anne Bancroft wasn’t in attendance at the screening, not knowing she was ill, and were so saddened a few weeks later to hear about her untimely death.
“Rumor Has it” is not a sequel to “The Graduate”—that would have been very tricky to pull off even if Anne Bancroft was still with us and the rest of the cast had agreed to participate. No, this film is based on the rumor that Charles Webb, the author of the novel “The Graduate” had based his book on people he knew when he was a young man in Pasadena. Shirley MacLaine plays the aging real-life Mrs. Robinson, Kevin Costner plays the now middle-aged Benjamin Braddock character, and Jennifer Aniston plays the daughter of Elaine Robinson who has just found out about her family’s sordid past and their connection to "The Graduate." We are told that the Elaine character died years earlier so she is not in the film but we find out early on that while she did run off with Costner’s character just before her wedding, she eventually returned and married the other guy (played by Richard Jenkins).
Fabulous premise, I thought, when I saw the very funny preview weeks ago. But alas, if anyone deserves any credit, it’s the person who edited together the preview clips. Talk about making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. I won’t bore you by going into all the reasons why this film was such a stinker, I just wanted to pull you out of that box office line before it's too late. We saw the film last night at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, probably the most famous and exquisite movie theatre in the world. Going there for me and Kendall is like going to a house of worship and we are especially respectful of proper movie audience etiquette. So you can imagine how horrible this film was that by the end of it I was audibly groaning, laughing at inappropriate places, tapping my water bottle on the seat in front of me, and making obnoxious comments in full volume. I’m surprised I didn’t start talking on my cell phone.
I am a huge fan of Shirley MacLaine and thought casting her in this role was a brilliant move. Who else has the acting chops and chutzpah to play the real-life Mrs. Robinson 30 years later? (On the other hand, I was equally excited about her casting as Endora in the horrific “Bewitched.”) MacLaine can overact with the best of them when required, and she’s usually able to wring plenty of laughs out of a miserable script, but here the laughs were nonexistent (despite Shirley’s game attempts to chew the scenery up into a fine paste). What was normally talented director Rob Reiner thinking? In his defense (and God knows he needs one, as Dr. Phil would say), I read that he was brought onto the film after production had already begun and that the actors weren’t even informed of the change until he was suddenly there on the set. Obviously the movie was troubled from the beginning and any hostility there may have been on the set shows. And to think that Rob must have known Anne Bancroft personally since his parents were close friends with her and Mel Brooks. The last time I saw Anne Bancroft in person was in a theatre lobby laughing uproariously with Carl Reiner. To have this film come out six months after her death is a shanda.
I don’t want to be mean but I have to say that Jennifer Aniston doesn’t have a single authentic moment in the film. I liked her in “The Good Girl” and some of the other films she’s made and she was certainly a huge asset to the cast of “Friends,” but here all she does is make the other actors (including her ditzy younger sister played by Mena Suvari) look like Lunt and Fontanne in comparison (oy, what would I say if I did want to be mean?). I know it’s been a tough year for Jennifer and I suspect she was not in good emotional shape when the film was being shot since she seemed incapable of expressing anything other than irritation and even that seemed forced. Mark Ruffalo gives as good a performance as possible as Jennifer’s hapless fiancé, but the chemistry between the two of them is so poor I would have been more turned on by a romantic comedy starring Hitler and Eva Braun. Kevin Costner plays his typical Kevin Costner persona (yawn) without a hint of the angst that Benjamin Braddock felt 30 years earlier when he bedded Mrs. Robinson in desperation. How interesting it would have been to see how such a character would have turned out. And to show Mrs. Robinson interacting with Benjamin today—still furious over his dalliance with Elaine but perhaps also a bit flirtatious and longing for that elusive time when she was the object of his desire.
Every great opportunity to explore the social mores of the 1960s and show us how they transmigrated into the late 1990s (for some reason the film takes place in 1997) is squandered. There are no insights, no clever twists, no believable character development. There’s a ghastly period after Aniston sleeps with Costner’s character in which we are led to believe he might be her biological father. YUCK! As if it isn’t bad enough that she’s having sex with the same man who slept with her mother AND grandmother? I don’t mean that as an ageist crack either, believe me, I’d take MacLaine’s character over Aniston’s any day of the week, even though she's a boozing lush. By the end of the film I was hoping for Dustin Hoffman to show up and start pounding on the glass to rescue poor Jennifer from this slop and her own career-killing performance.
Have I exposed too much of the plot? Good, maybe that will keep you away. What? You don’t care what I say, you’re going to see it anyway to form your own opinion? Oh God, no! You refuse to be swayed by my hysteria? Fine, just don’t come crying to me when it’s over.