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Rumor Has It... Print E-mail
Thursday, 01 June 2006

Image “Rumor Has It” is a love story and journey of self-discovery and the meaning of ties to the past, but even with considerable star power, the movie has a tendency to simply trudge along to familiar plot points. Sarah Huttiger (Jennifer Aniston) is lost in her life, feeling alienated and distant from everything that she’s supposed to be happy about. She’s got a job that’s going nowhere, a family that she’s certain she was adopted into, and the perfect man who has just proposed to her.

All of the things that are supposed to make her happy are bringing her grief, primarily because she’s unsettled in her own life. Then she finds out that her mother and grandmother (Shirley MacLaine) were involved with the same man. In fact, those relationships were the basis of the novel, “The Graduate.”. Not only that, but Sarah becomes convinced that the roguish Beau Burroughs (Kevin Costner) might actually be her father, which would explain why she’s not fitting in anywhere. Then things begin to unravel and get twisted at the same time, complicating her life even further.

HD Video Resolution: As an HD DVD purchase, “Rumor Has It” is disappointing. The images aren’t improved on from the DVD version for the most part. In a couple scenes, Chapters 13 and 14, primarily featuring landscape, the sharpness is better, or at least is more available in the 1080i presentation. The colors appear a little faded and the edges of the people and sets show softness instead of clarity. HD Audio Resolution: The sound on the HD DVD, although billed as Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1, isn’t separated very well. The sound generally comes through the center and front speakers, with occasional forays through the rear speakers. Where the HD DVD quality sound really shines, and it’s way too little and way too late, is in the final song “You Got What It Takes” during the credits roll. Anyone who listens to that segment will realize instantly what was missing from the rest of the movie.

General Review: “Rumor Has It” is a great little film to watch on one of those nights when something light is required. The subject matter, young woman nearing nuptials has cold feet and wants a second look at her options, has been done innumerable times. But it’s one of those subjects that always offers up stories. This one, using the novel, “The Graduate,” has an original premise—to a degree—if not an original execution.

Jennifer Aniston plays Sarah Huttinger, the twenty-something young woman who’s currently a New York journalist writing wedding announcements and obituaries. Her fiancé Jeff (played by Mark Ruffalo – who’s been spending a lot of time lately in light romantic comedies) is an attorney who feels like it’s his responsibility to keep her together. Richard Jenkins plays her father, a long-suffering man who has put up with two daughters after his wife died. Shirley MacLaine plays the grandmother and absolutely turns into a scene-stealer, partly due to the script but mostly because of her ability to act so outrageously. Kevin Costner stars as Beau Burroughs, the man who became the legend that inspired the book, and comes across both as a rake and as a sleaze.

Rob Reiner has become an excellent director over the years, with a keen understanding of mixing humor into the serious aspects of life. “When Harry Met Sally” and “The Princess Bride” are two stand-out classics in his repertoire. He moves through “Rumor Has It” with an easy style and grace, complementing the script (by Ted Griffin) and the actors with his choice of shots and sets.

Aniston, as Sarah, does the voice-over at the beginning of the film that introduces the background of “The Graduate”, the book and the film. Presumably this has to be done to bring the younger audience on board. In its day, though, “The Graduate” was a huge movie. Simon & Garfinkle’s “Mrs. Robinson,” was born there and became a hit, even a standard, on its own.

The story begins action with Sarah on the plane with her fiancé. Aniston comes across easily as the lost ingénue, and Ruffalo is perfectly cast as the supportive husband-to-be who’s totally laidback and got a handle on things. Taking Jeff’s advice that she should just unwind, Sarah decides that sex in the airplane bathroom will do the job nicely. That attempt fails, and sets the tone for what’s about to happen to Sarah as she tries desperately to make some sense of her life.

Things don’t fare much better at the airport when her father picks them up. After briefing Jeff on conversation that’s allowed verses conversation that isn’t, Sarah sits back pensively as her father cycles through all the old jokes. Aniston’s body language conveys the tension she’s feeling, as if she’s all alone in the world, surrounded by strangers.

Later, at her father’s house, Sarah speaks to her sister. The viewer instantly understands Sarah’s feelings of not fitting in with her family. In the ensuing scenes, that alienation is magnified as Sarah stares around, totally perplexed. But when her grandmother is introduced (played exquisitely well by Shirley MacLaine), all bets are off. Granny is everything but what is expected. Rancorous, foul-mouthed and opinionated, Sarah’s grandmother quickly takes her aside and talks to her about the problems she’s facing.

Grandma goes on to tell Sarah that Sarah’s mom had a fling just before she married her dad. Sarah immediately seizes on the possibility that whoever her mother had the fling with must be her dad. Since her grandmother won’t tell her who the guy was, Sarah goes to her Aunt Mitzi (Kathy Bates), knowing she’ll get the full story there. After Aunt Mitzi’s had a few drinks, she spills the beans. That’s when Sarah figures out that her grandmother was Mrs. Robinson from the book, the movie, and Simon & Garfunkle’s song. She can’t believe it.

Barely arriving in time for her sister’s wedding, Sarah tries to come to grips with what’s going on and what happened in her family history. While she’s getting dressed, bringing Jeff up to speed on the whole “The Graduate” scenario, Grandma steps into the picture again to deal with the problem. Again, Shirley MacLaine steps to the forefront and truly steals the show.

Later, Sarah tries several times to track Beau Burroughs down. Finally, just as she and Jeff are boarding the plane, she finds out that Burroughs is in San Francisco at a computer convention where he’s a renowned speaker. Jeff urges Sarah to go meet Burroughs, telling her she needs to lay all of that aside and get on with her life, and if that’s what it takes for her to do that, she should do it.

Kevin Costner plays the role of Beau Burroughs with an easy grace, fitting into the laidback, take-life-as-it-comes kind of guy. A little older and heavier these days, he plays Burroughs in such a manner that he truly comes across as a guy who could seduce three generations of women. Sarah, looking for a father, inadvertently finds herself in the arms of a lover, complicating her life even further.

Overall, “Rumor Has It” is a satisfying romp. As a love story, it’s predictable but comfortable. Shirley MacLaine fans may want to buy the disc (if they don’t already have it on DVD) or at least rent it, because she comes across as truly scandalous. Everyone should have a grandmother like this in the family. The movie would be a good rental for a night of relaxation, or possibly for collectors of movies with performances by Anniston, Costner or Ruffalo. If the DVD is already in the home theater collection, take a pass on this one because it doesn’t justify a further expenditure of money for something that’s already there.

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