Having agreed to marry Jeff Daly (Mark Ruffalo, "Just Like Heaven"), Sarah Huttinger ('Friend' Jennifer Aniston, "Derailed") is unsure of her decision because she's unsure of her own identity. She doesn't feel like she belongs to her family or her childhood environment of Pasadena, a community rocked years early with rumors that one of its own was the real Mrs. Robinson. The night before her younger sister Annie's (Mena Suvari, "Domino") wedding, maternal grandmother Katharine 'don't call me Grandma' Richelieu (Shirley MacLaine, "In Her Shoes") lets slip that Sarah’s mother had a similar crisis, running off the week before her own wedding. A little detective work later, Sarah is astonished to find out that her mother's mystery man was also her grandmother's lover and best friend of the man who wrote "The Graduate." Leaving Jeff to fly back to New York alone, Sarah heads to San Francisco to see if that man, Beau Burroughs (Kevin Costner, "The Upside of Anger"), is her real father in "Rumor Has It..."
Writer Ted Griffin ("Matchstick Men") was to make his directorial debut with this film, until, rumor has it, he was fired and Rob Reiner ("Alex & Emma") stepped in. Although the supporting males and grand dame MacLaine emerge unscathed (heck, MacLaine even came through "Bewitched" smelling like roses), Aniston looks out of her league in this thoroughly disjointed film.
Sarah uses her creds as a journalist (she writes obituaries) to get into a seminar Burroughs, a billionaire Internet visionary, is conducting and catches his eye, but when she finally gets up the nerve to voice her suspicions, he shoots them down as medically impossible. Seems a sports injury he sustained before his time with her mom rendered him sterile. Disappointed that she hasn't found what she was looking for, Sarah breaks down in tears and Beau offers to cheer her up with a whirlwind tour of the city, liberally oiled with alcohol. She wakes up in his bed, a third generation conquest.
But Beau's not a cad, inviting her to a charity ball that evening, and she's enticed. Meanwhile Jeff has been worrying since she stopped answering her cell phone and he tracks her down via Burroughs's secretary. Jeff arrives just in time to catch Sarah in a passionate clinch with the man she had thought was her dad.
The main problem with Griffin's story is that Sarah's motivations are so off-puttingly weak. Everything about her self discovery is artificial, from her odd man out stance with sis and dad to her sudden contentment at having 'found' her mom. "Rumor Has It..." also features one of the least believable wedding weekends in film history, one where the maid of honor is off on her own quest, dressing for the wedding at the church itself while searching for a place to watch a video she has surely seen. Her mom's best friend, 'Aunt Mitzi' (Kathy Bates, "Misery"), is available to provide Sarah clues but not to attend Annie's wedding, which, in fact, we never do witness. Then there's the son, Blake (Mike Vogel, "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants"), who's provided for Burroughs to add conflict to his romance with Sarah, but it's resolved so immediately it feels tacked on (and Jeff arrives right on that sequence's heels, giving the viewer whiplash and making Sarah seem even more hopelessly fickle). "The Graduate" theme seems to have spawned a need to cram the film with other movie references as well, an idea which merely dilutes the broth.
Griffin does provide a few good lines of dialogue, most famously Aniston's 'My sister, she bounces' (no kidding - Suvari plays Annie like a perky speed-freak cheerleader). MacLaine gets to employ her caustic side with offhand lines like 'Come on in. I'll put on a pot of bourbon,' and Costner sounds credibly smart and genuinely thoughtful. Still, poor guy has to participate with Aniston in the supposedly insightful 'we're chasing ghosts' conclusion.
Aniston was lauded for "The Good Girl," but this performance is tentative and unappealing and very small screen. She is, however, working with bad material and whatever Griffin was doing wrong as a director wasn't fixed by Reiner (it would be interesting to know if any of Griffin's footage remains as the film's earlier goings seem edited by machete, with great big connective bits tossed out). Richard Jenkins, who has impressed lately in everything from the light "Shall We Dance" to the dramatic "North Country" is the best thing in the film as understanding dad Earl and Ruffalo is proving himself surprisingly adept at romantic comedy, a genre he didn't seem destined for. Costner, who is on a serious upswing with the laid back and self effacing charm he's exhibited in both his own "Open Range" and "The Upside of Anger," makes the scenes he's in seem better than they are.
"Rumor Has It..." sounds like it started as a good idea, but its execution is mostly dreadful. Even its soundtrack is dull.
Robin did not see this film.
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