How, exactly, do you market a genial, low-key comedy -- without raunch or major stars -- to a mainstream audience nowadays? Post Grad, which opens on Friday, features Alexis Bledel as a college graduate forced to move back home with her eccentric family. Bledel is an up-and-coming star, still known best as Rory in the long-running TV show The Gilmore Girls, but gaining increasing recognition through her roles in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and its sequel. 20th Century Fox Film is capitalizing on her appeal by marketing Post Grad as though it were a starring vehicle for her. Bledel is quite charming as the beleaguered yet ultimately determined Ryden Malby, a go-getter set on working at a publishing house until things go very wrong.
As I watched the film, though, I found myself more captivated by the supporting characters than by Ryden's job and relationship dilemmas. Jane Lynch as her mother, Bobby Coleman as her odd little brother, Carol Burnett as her live-in grandmother, and, especially, Michael Keaton as her father. In fact, Keaton appears to be channeling his role as the fast-talking, idea-popping Bill Blazejowski in Ron Howard's Night Shift from 27 years ago, all grown up as a semi-responsible adult; it's a wonderful comic performance.
And it struck me that Post Grad feels very much like a second cousin to Juno and Little Miss Sunshine and Sunshine Cleaning and Away We Go. While it may not be as successful as the best of the 'indie flicks that feel mainstream' -- in part because it doesn't strain to be profound or hip or edgy -- in its own, family-friendly way, Post Grad is positioned as a 'little film that could.'
Therein, perhaps, lies the problem. Produced under the Fox Atomic banner, Post Grad became the responsibility of 20th Century Fox Film after the youth-skewing division went away. The trailer sticks close to Ryden's story, which makes sense, both for the movie and for Bledel as an actress / star: they want to get the younger crowd into seats, and build on the idea that Rory / Lena is growing up, romancing and job hunting. Really, though, it's this short clip that more effectively communicates the tone of the picture: weird little brother hanging onto Mom's leg, Mom wondering about her son's future, Grandma giving (not so sage) advice.
Is it possible to sell that idea, to communicate that tone accurately, without limiting the audience? Maybe not. But it seems that Post Grad, directed by Vicky Jenson (co-director of Shrek and Shark Tale) and written by Kelly Fremon, may be facing an uphill battle. Which is too bad, because it feels like a throwback to a time before young male-oriented raunch ruled the day in comedies. There's always room for raunchy, outrageous laugh riots, but there should be a place for smaller, quieter, brightly amusing films like Post Grad as well.
What do you think? Put on your amateur marketing hat with me. Even without seeing the movie, how would you try and get people to see a gentle comedy in a harsh, cruel world? Would you captalize on the Reitman connection (Ivan Reitman is one of the producers, and his daughter Catherine Reitman has a key supporting part)?
For more on Post Grad, check out the music video "One Day" featuring Jack Savoretti from the film's soundtrack over at PopEater.