Rumor has it that Rumor Has It … was one of those beleaguered projects plagued with infighting and a change in director less than two weeks into production — and onscreen evidence suggests that the rumor is far from unfounded.
The admittedly clever notion at the heart of the movie — that The Graduate was more or less a true story — would have been fresher if the idea of a Graduate sequel hadn’t been parodied 15 years ago in Robert Altman’s The Player. Still, it might have worked on its own terms.
The project started out as writer Ted Griffin’s (Ocean’s Eleven) directorial debut, but he found himself out when — at least as rumor has it — stars Jennifer Aniston and Kevin Costner decided they weren’t being properly directed. Enter Rob Reiner, a known-commodity director — unfortunately of generally not-very-adventurous films, especially as concerns traditional romantic-comedy values.
I’m just guessing here, since I haven’t read Griffin’s screenplay, but Mark Ruffalo’s comments on the change — “It’s a different movie, and it’s taking a certain amount of acclimation to find my way in it, but I feel good with it. I love Ted, and I love the old script, but this is equally as good a project” — make me suspicious that Griffin had written a satire and the stars wanted a rom-com, i.e., to turn it into When Beau Met Sarah. Such a shift in gears indicates a pretty thorough misunderstanding of The Graduate, which is hardly a romantic comedy.
Judging by the number of awkward cuts where close-ups of the speaker (usually Shirley MacLaine) move to over-the-shoulder reaction shots of the listener and it’s painfully obvious that what’s really coming out of the actor’s mouth and what we’re hearing aren’t the same thing, the film feels inescapably like a salvage job. It’s even money that some of Griffin’s footage — especially the pre-nuptial party — was retained and clumsily remonkeyed. The fact that some sequences are shot in such a way that Mark Ruffalo looks about 10 years older than he is while others don’t also indicates that more than one director was involved.
The result is a lopsided film that finally goes nowhere. Rumor Has It … is rarely more than mildly entertaining fluff, despite some inherent edge to material that flirts with the idea of a woman sleeping with a man who less than a reel earlier she thought might be her real father. You can’t make that completely safe. And safe is something no one is ever likely to make Shirley MacLaine, who has a field day in her all-too-limited scenes as the model for The Graduate‘s Mrs. Robinson. But neither mild edge nor MacLaine is enough to keep the film from succumbing to Rom-Com 101 goo before the end.
Costner is surprisingly smooth and self-assured, MacLaine is terrific, and Ruffalo is wasted in a thankless role. Aniston is once again agreeable, but rarely anything more (except in one genuinely funny moment where she thinks that she really may have slept with her father), which is also the best thing that can be said about the whole movie. Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material, sexual content, crude humor and a drug reference.
– reviewed by Ken Hanke