Rumor Has It (Warner Bros., R)

Rumor has it The Graduate’s a pretty nifty little flick itself.


Let me start this review by saying that I’m pretty fond of Jennifer Aniston as a film actress. I wasn’t that much of a Friends fan, but I found her quite appealing and believable in films such as Office Space, Picture Perfect, and Bruce Almighty, and she proved she could do more than just play the conflicted girlfriend role in The Good Girl. There are interesting nuances in Aniston’s performances, and she always makes even shaky material seem interesting by giving us characters that are genuine and easy to identify with.

So I tended to go along with Aniston’s role as Sarah Huttinger in the new film Rumor Has It, which posits that Sarah’s kooky family may have been the real-life inspiration for the classic film The Graduate. Sarah, a New York obituary writer, is engaged to a charming and intelligent guy named Jeff (Mark Ruffalo), but she’s distracted from the relationship by her research into her family history, which includes her caustic, acid-tongued grandmother (Shirley MacLaine, clearly enjoying herself in the role)—the potential Mrs. Robinson—her deceased mother, and a mysterious man named Beau Burroughs (Kevin Costner), who had apparently slept with both Mom and Grandma.

Sarah’s overly plucky sister Annie (Mena Suvari) has just gotten married herself, and now Sarah, back in hometown Pasadena for the wedding, sets off to confront the wealthy internet tycoon Burroughs, who lives in San Francisco, to see about all this Graduate nonsense and to answer the provocative question, “Could he be her father?” She finds herself pulled into a relationship with the charming man when he convinces her he’s not, in fact, her pop—but there are complications galore, and Sarah is in for a whale of an emotional ride. Will she mess up her engagement to Jeff? Is Beau on the level? What will happen when he seeks her out back home and confronts MacLaine for the first time since their ancient affair? And how much will you care? Those are some of the questions the movie raises, with the last being probably the most important in this shaky Rob Reiner–directed vehicle.

The script for Rumor Has It was written by Ted Griffin (Ocean’s Eleven), and it wants to be funny, romantic, and surprising in equal doses, but while the film is reasonably entertaining and the actors do their best, nothing really elevates this odd mixture above an amusing trifle. Aniston milks her patented confused/yearning facial expressions for all they’re worth and has a few choice scenes, while Costner doesn’t have to do much more than be sincere and charming, which somehow doesn’t seem quite enough. As for Ruffalo, a normally terrific actor, he’s done this kind of role before (most notably in 13 Going on 30), and seems like he’s in paycheck mode here. MacLaine is definitely entertaining in her scenes, but occasionally seems like she’s in a different, better movie.

Richard Jenkins as Earl Huttinger, the family patriarch, does the most appealingly understated work here. The notion that the movie which made Dustin Hoffman famous could be based on real events is a perversely entertaining one, and somewhere in this script is an edgier, more interesting film. As it stands, Rumor Has It is just a mildly diverting 90 minutes that will likely neither hurt nor help the resumés of anyone involved. Most Aniston fans will likely appreciate her energetic performance; otherwise, the film may spark a rash of rentals of The Graduate. Rumor has it that’s a pretty nifty little flick itself.

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