MRR Movie Review: Rumor Has It

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This 2005 romantic comedy film directed by Rob Reiner, starring Jennifer Aniston, Kevin Costner, Shirley MacLaine and Mark Ruffalo tells the story of a woman who learns that her family was the inspiration for the book and film "The Graduate" and that she's possibly the offspring of the well-documented event.
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Movie Review: "Rumor Has It"

--Rating: PG-13 (mature themes, crude humor, sexual content, and reference to drugs)
Length: 97 minutes
Release Date: December 25, 2005
Directed by: Rob Reiner
Genre: Comedy/Romance/Drama

Ted Griffin penned the screenplay for "Rumor Has It," drawing heavily on references to The Graduate, a 1963 novel by Charles Webb. The novel provides a gimmick for the movie, although "Rumor Has It" doesn't suffer from the same let down many gimmick-driven films do. In part, this is because the tone of the movie is just silly enough to prepare the viewer for the premise, but mostly because Jennifer Aniston, who stars as Sarah Huttinger, is both sincere and flighty enough to pull off the bulk of the plot.

In addition to Aniston, "Rumor Has It" sports a large cast of well-known names. Shirley MacLaine plays Sarah's mother, Richard Jenkins plays her father, and Mena Suvari plays Sarah's sister, who is about to get married. Sarah's love interest, Jeff, is played by Mark Ruffalo, who gives a surprisingly gentle and normal performance, despite previously appearing as the Hulk and in Martin Scorsese's odd flick, "Shutter Island." Kevin Costner rounds out the cast as Beau Burroughs, a friend of Sarah's family and, as it turns out, a somewhat scandalous character.

The plot of "Rumor Has It" begins just before the wedding of Sarah's sister. Sarah and Jeff are engaged, but they have agreed not to tell anyone until after the wedding. During the first part of the film, Sarah hears some startling family gossip from her grandmother. Sarah's mother ran off just before her own wedding, leaving with another man, but she came back after a few days and went through with the marriage to Sarah's father. If this wasn't shocking enough, Sarah hears from someone else that there is an ongoing rumor in the town that writer Charles Webb based The Graduate on actual people from the area. According to the rumors, a woman slept with a much younger man and that man later ran off with her daughter.

Putting all the information together, Sarah realizes her grandmother could have been Mrs. Robinson. She also wonders if Beau Burroughs was the man who both slept with her grandmother and ran off with her mother. When she shares the speculations with Jeff, he pours fuel on the fire by suggesting that Beau Burroughs might actually be Sarah's father. At this point, the gimmick takes full charge of what becomes a bit of a sitcom-style movie. The antics, while not completely hilarious, are at times realistically funny and appropriate for mixed adult audiences.

The movie does take a strange turn, however, when Sarah gets more than she bargained for after hunting Beau down. The charming and wealthy bachelor may or may not be her father, but he also sparks a less-than daughterly response in Sarah. At this point, the plotline may cause some viewers to groan and feel a little uneasy. In all fairness, the movie does appear to pay homage to the original novel, which created the same responses in readers years ago. Perhaps any audience unease simply means that "Rumor Has It" has accomplished what it set out to do.

Besides Aniston's characteristically affable performance, both Shirley MacLaine and Kevin Costner added entertainment value to the film. MacLaine delivers on the role of the saucy grandmother with ease, delivering lines like "Come in, I'll put on a pot of bourbon," so naturally that viewers might assume the actress was playing a version of herself. Costner is also likeable in his rich playboy role. It is not a stretch for viewers to believe that women of any age would be interested in the character.

Side characters deliver excellent moments in the movie as well. A few funny lines between Sarah's father and fiancé are pulled off with a deadpan approach from both Ruffalo and Jenkins. Suvari portrays a likeable, if a little weak, character in Sarah's sister. Any weaknesses, however, seem to be more in the writing than in the acting. In some spots, "Rumor Has It" relies on the comedy of the gimmick and the experience of the actors, and the writing seems to coast along without much effort.

Overall, "Rumor Has It" is a fun film that invokes the style and feeling of mid-2000s romantic comedies. The movie itself is set in 1997 and features numerous references to the late 1990s. Aniston and Costner deliver in a movie that both imbues and skews traditional romantic comedy notions. This would make a great film for date night or to entertain the family, as long as all the kids are older teens.

Rating 3 out of 5