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Rumor Has It (A Movie Review)


Starring Jennifer Aniston, Kevin Costner, Shirley MacLaine, Mark Ruffalo, Richard Jenkins, Mena Suvari, Christopher McDonald, Kathy Bates, Steven Sandvoss, Mike Vogel, Robert Lanza, Lisa Vachon, Trevor Stock, Jennifer Taylor, Marcia Ann Burrs and George Hamilton.

Screenplay by Ted Griffin.

Directed by Rob Reiner.

Distributed by Warner Brothers Pictures. 96 minutes. Rated PG-13.

This movie is all about high-concept – but what a concept. An unhappy and confused New York journo (she does weddings and obits for The New York Times) goes back home to Pasadena for her sister's wedding and finds out the family secret – that her grandmother and mother were the inspirations for the characters of Mrs. Robinson and Elaine in the book The Graduate. Always feeling out of place with her family, she decides to track down the man who inspired Ben Braddock to find out if he might be her father, and instead falls into an affair with him.

It's a fascinating idea, done pretty well, but not exactly as good as it could or should be.

Jennifer Aniston plays the main character in this version – Sarah Huttinger, a beautiful Pasadena-raised woman who seems to have the world by a string. She has a loving fiancé who is a lawyer (Mark Ruffalo), a doting father (Richard Jenkins) and a job at the most prestigious newspaper in the world, (though, granted, a very low-level position.) Yet, somehow, Sarah is completely, utterly miserable. She considers her career a dead end. She has always felt disconnected from her father and sister (her mom died when she was nine) because she doesn't play tennis, drives fast, votes Democrat and hates Pasadena – making her a complete black sheep. And while she loves her boyfriend, the idea of marrying him makes her break out in a cold sweat.

The family secret comes out when Sarah returns home for her little sister's (Mena Suvari) wedding. (The film takes place in early 1997 – I assume because the characters would all be too old if it took place in the modern day – but it makes the Titanic reference a bit of clairvoyance on one of the characters' part as that film wouldn't come out until the end of that year.)

Sarah's hard drinking, hard smoking, fast talking grandma (Shirley MacLaine) lets it slip at the wedding that Sarah's mother had cold feet before her wedding too, going to Cabo San Lucas with another man less than a week before her wedding. Sarah gets more facts from her mother's best friend (played extremely broadly by the normally rock-solid Kathy Bates) about a guy her mother had a crush on before marriage, a high-school-jock-turned-dot-com-millionaire named Beau Burroughs (Kevin Costner). Sarah becomes certain that there is validity to the rumor. After all, his initials were B.B., just like the character's. It must be true.

Sarah becomes obsessed with the idea that this mysterious man was her real father. When Sarah finally tracks down Beau, she asks him what happened with her mother – and her grandmother. "You read the book. You saw the movie. That's pretty much how it was," Burroughs acknowledges to her. It does make you wonder if Rumor screenwriter Ted Griffin has read the book, though, because anyone who has read it knows that the storyline of the novel was significantly different than the one that was used in the screenplay of The Graduate.

This all leads to a series of misunderstandings and misadventures, not the least of which has Sarah sleeping with the same guy who has had sex with her mother and grandmother. This becomes particularly kinky when she realizes the excuse he gave her that he was not her father may not be completely true. The complications swirl and cause Sarah to reexamine her life – but they also take the movie's eye off the ball and take it in a totally different direction than it started out towards.

Rumor Has It is far from a perfect film, but it sometimes comes down to the simple question; did you like it or not? The answer to that is a yes. It doesn't quite live up to its central idea, but it is a light, fun romantic romp, anchored by some fantastic performances. I may never think of the movie again after I write about it, but while I was watching it, I had fun. (12/05)

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2005 All rights reserved. Posted: December 27, 2005.


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