In the savage satire The Player, actor/screenwriter Buck Henry makes a hilarious pitch for a sequel to The Graduate, something of a savage satire itself, though cloaked in the garb of a romantic fantasy of rebellion and authenticity. The thing about Henry’s pitch is that no one wants to see a squel to The Graduate; it is such a patently stupid idea that it is funny to see him try to pitch it.
I would love to see a movie of the pitch that got this sort-of-sequel made, one of the very worst ideas for a movie since they decided to try to make a horror movie about rabbits.
So, here’s the pitch — a young woman named Sarah (Jennifer Anniston) discovers on the eve of her sister’s wedding that the movie The Graduate was inspired by her own family. Before her parents got married, her mother briefly ran away with a young man in her class at school named Beau Burroughs (Kevin Costner) who had had an affair with her mother (Sarah’s grandmother, played with bite by Shirley Maclaine). Sarah decides that Beau must be her biological father, so she flies to San Francisco to meet him. When it turns out he was not her father, she becomes the third generation in her family to sleep with him. And when her fiance (Mark Ruffalo) finds out about this, he is not happy.
I want to take a shower just writing those words. I wanted to take two showers watching it on the screen.
In other words: Ew.
Ew. Ew. Ew.
There is actually something very twisted about all of this and perhaps John Waters could make it work, but Rob Reiner directs it as though it was a very traditional light romantic comedy, albeit one with overtones of incest and jokes about testicular injuries.
Plus, it has a lot of annoying logical inconsistencies. For example, Sarah, a journalist, instantly recognizes the very obscure name of the author of the book The Graduate (Charles Webb) but registers nothing about the name of one of the wealthiest dot.com entrepreneurs at the height of the boom era? The movie is also set in the 1990’s (to make the timing work with the publication of the book), but makes no use whatsoever of the era except to put in random details like big cell phones and television clips of President Clinton. A character has an anxiety attack on an airplane for no purpose other than to have her back home again and then, as soon as we no longer need her, she is somehow all better. No one behaves in a way that makes any sense, even within the genre of farce, which means no one is worth caring about. It’s a terrible shame to waste some of the most talented light-comedy performers in Hollywood on a script that is not just not funny, not just not engaging, but downright gross.
Parents should know that this is a movie that presents a man’s sexual encounters with three generations of women in the same family as material, including infidelity to a husband and two fiances as material for a light-hearted comedy. Characters use some strong language. They drink (including getting drunk) and there is a reference to drug use.
Families who see this movie should talk about why Sarah did not feel more connected to her father and sister and what Jeff saw in Sarah that made him want to be with her.
Families who enjoy this movie should watch The Graduate. They might also enjoy 40 Carats.