I know that the critical reception to "Rumor Has It" was very chilly, but something about the idea of the film really appealed to me. The concept, the plot conceit, is a genuinely clever notion. Being a fan of "The Graduate," I was interested to see how well they would integrate the "characters" of that film with the "real life" counterpoints in this film. I mean, come on, Shirley MacLaine representing Mrs. Robinson and Kevin Costner as Ben Braddock--seems like a great idea! But, alas, when all is said and done--an amusing and well conceived setup did not equal a satisfying movie experience, for me.
Jennifer Aniston returns to her Pasadena homestead with her new fiance, played by Mark Ruffalo. Plagued with doubts about her engagement, and seemingly disengaged from any real affection for her own family, she hears a rumor that leads her to suspect that the book and film of "The Graduate" were based on her deceased mother's experiences. Confirming that her grandmother (MacLaine) was indeed the "Mrs. Robinson" character, she deduces that her mother had a fling prior to marrying her father. Thus, with the notion that she might be the daughter of this man--she sets off to find the truth. Encountering Costner, as the potential daddy and "Ben Braddock" character, she discovers truths about herself and her family.
All of this plays out very routinely, but the supporting actors are engaging and comfortable. It's always great to see MacLaine, but she offers nothing new or inventive in this performance--it's the standard brassy MacLaine persona we've come to expect. Costner continues to embrace his middle-aged status and has, thus, developed into a far more interesting actor than he used to be. (But for a more nuanced and astute role, check him out in "The Upside of Anger" with the luminous Joan Allen.) And Mark Ruffalo, a great serious actor, continues to play lightly as a romantic leading man. Recently cast with Witherspoon, Garner, and now Aniston in lightweight fluff--I do miss the more challenging roles he used to take on.
But it is Aniston's character, to me, that is a despicable movie creation--one that I've seen all too frequently, but this one is supposed to be endearing. Born into a life of privilege, she has accomplished nothing in her 30+ years and has become a self-involved and unpleasant "Woman-child." She floats through her sister's wedding as if it's all some great inconvenience. She doesn't think twice about mistreating a man who loves her. She never acts on anything that doesn't blatantly promote her own self-interest. I'm just so tired of it--it's not charming. Don't get me wrong--there are plenty of "Man-child" movies too (more so, even) about men who still act as if they were adolescent. But, think about those movies--the "Man-child" is an object of scorn and ridicule, we laugh at him. But "Rumor Has It" doesn't ask you to laugh at Aniston's social ineptitude and selfishness--far from it--we're supposed to embrace it and identify with her as a real person. Well, frankly, I wished everyone in Aniston's life would abandon her because of her behavior so that she'd learn to grow up. But, of course, this is wish fulfillment--and she learns about life while retaining everything of value--there is never any consequence to being a nasty person.
This gender double standard really bothers me, and the fact that I genuinely disliked the central character--obviously, I didn't care for this film. Otherwise it would have been a fairly generic picture, but these two things caused me to feel strongly and negatively. I am giving it an extra star for a good idea, but unfortunately, it didn't pan out for me. KGHarris, 01/07.