During the 1960s, the world was asked to take a “sad song, and make it better” by the Beatles. And by another high-water mark from the era, “The Graduate” we learned from the iconoclastic film that if you were a young man looking for a career, there was one thing, and one thing only, to look into: “Plastics.”
The director of “Rumor Has It ...,” Rob Reiner was a member of that generation, and the first place we saw him was as the hippie dippy “Meathead” in the show, “Archie Bunker.” In this film, the creature of an age of questioning values and of outright revolution asks us the question, can a good film be made about an even better film?
Well, it certainly plays homage to “The Graduate,” which starred Dustin Hoffman as the post-college graduate trying to come to terms with the new plastic world, and Anne Bancroft as a seductress twice his age. The real-life legend of the Pasadena, Calif., pair that inspired a novel by Charles Webb, is “the rumor” addressed in “Rumor Has It ...”
And the screenplay by Ted Griffin is pretty darn good. It’s a good story with a number of witty lines and surprising turns. Even better, Shirley MacLaine makes the most of the part, overcoming the fact Bancroft is no longer with us to reprise the role, by delivering one of the supporting actress perfomances of the year. Her portrayal of the real “Mrs. Robinson,” made famous by the Simon and Garfunkel song usually associated with “The Graduate,” is completely believable. And Kevin Costner is a warm friend to have around in the film, too.
One critic for the Boston Globe slammed the film because Reiner has political inclinations in the Democratic Party. The reviewer, Wesley Morris, wrote Reiner chose a pre-millenial, “Internet Gold Rush” era setting only because he “couldn’t stand to set the picture during the Bush administration.” Maybe. Maybe not. You could make points either way, since the Bush era is about crushing a revolt, and both the “Graduate” and the Internet are about revolution. But this film doesn’t work for one reason, and one reason only: “Plastics.”
Such as the performance by Jennifer Aniston, everybody’s sweetheart, yes, but with no more range than the pre-packaged nervous nelly we all know and love (or is that loathe?).
Which is why this film may inspire a new motto for these troubled times. And that motto should be: “Brad, we forgive you!”