Remember the “Seinfeld” slump? How, ever since the show’s finale, its stars – except Mr. Seinfeld, of course – have found success in no other roles? Apparently, the slump carries over to other once-beloved NBC sitcoms. The most notable recent victims have been our old “Friends” (just ask poor, unemployed Matthew Perry). The one star who we might expect to break out of the holding pattern is the tabloid institution known as Jennifer Aniston. Succeed she eventually may, but not in 2005. After divorcing Achilles himself and then starring in the lukewarm “Derailed,” Aniston finishes out the year with “Rumor Has It.” Despite occasional sweetness, the film is messy and tedious on the whole.

Film Reviews
“So, about that Esquire cover…” (Courtesy of Warner Bros.)

Launching from the events of 1967’s “The Graduate,” “Rumor Has It” centers around Sarah Huttinger (Aniston), a career-deadlocked reporter from New York City who returns home with her boyfriend, Jeff (perennial rom-com star Mark Ruffalo, “Just Like Heaven”), to her California family for her younger sister’s wedding. There, through a series of poorly paced (though often entertaining) sequences, she discovers her family’s darkest secret: Her mother was in love with a man other than her father, a man who also had an affair with her grandmother and may also be her real father.

Confusing? You bet, so watch “The Graduate” before you go.

The mysterious man is Beau Burroughs (Kevin Costner), with whom Sarah herself eventually sleeps with. “Wait,” you’ll say, “isn’t there a chance that this man is her father?” Yes, and though that possibility is seemingly ruled out by Beau claiming to be sterile, an air of doubt remains, the relationship icky at best. Then, of course, there’s Sarah boyfriend, or fiance really. Yep, it’s a complicated situation, and we can sympathize with Sarah when she hangs her head in despair and exclaims, “I’m going to need so much therapy!”

But all disconcerting topics are handled with a light, humorous air, and “Rumor Has It” is not an objectionable film. Shirley MacLaine, who plays Sarah’s grandmother (but don’t you dare call her that), steals scenes with her nonchalantly obscene and blunt demeanor. Costner and Ruffalo, though both held back by the natural limitations of a lackluster script, grasp their roles well and play an integral part in portraying the truly outrageous nature of the situation Sarah finds herself in.

Aniston too is commendable, but her lovable antics are counterproductive; the fluffy comedy and her flighty character too easily conjure the Rachel Green persona she so desperately needs to escape.

 

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

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