It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
Now here is a curious thing. When I see Jennifer Aniston playing any halfway ordinary character, I have the same reaction: Hey, a friend of mine has somehow gotten into the same movie with all of those stars. I've never actually met Aniston, although once at Sundance I saw paparazzi fight to photograph her with Brad Pitt, in response to a tragic shortage of pictures showing them together. Most of these photos later appeared on the covers of gossip mags with the couple torn in two by a jagged line and Angelina Jolie leering over the bar code, but none of that has anything to do with how I feel when I see Aniston in a movie. It's the damnedest thing. I don't ever want to meet her, because then I might lose her as a friend.
In "Rumor Has It," she plays a character named Sarah Huttinger, who unless she is vigilant may become the third woman in her family to sleep with Benjamin Braddock -- you remember, the Dustin Hoffman character in "The Graduate." This of course is all based on rumor. In Pasadena, the movie explains, everyone knew the real Charlie Webb, who wrote the novel The Graduate, and rumor has it that he based his book on real people who really lived in Pasadena. There really was a bride who ran away with this guy three days before her wedding, and the guy had earlier slept with her mother, who was the original Mrs. Robinson, and so on.
Now another generation has passed. Sarah's mother was the original of Elaine Robinson, and a guy named Beau Burroughs (Kevin Costner) was the original Benjamin Braddock, and the original Mrs. Robinson was therefore of course Sarah's grandmother. Can you believe Shirley MacLaine as the original Mrs. Robinson? I can, with no trouble at all.
I could also have believed Anne Bancroft. Sigh. The movie was directed by Rob Reiner, a friend of Anne Bancroft and Mel Brooks since he was a child, and at first I wondered if perhaps the role was intended for her before she'd become ill. But no: In the film's logic, the characters have seen the 1967 movie with Bancroft and Hoffman, and discuss it. It wouldn't make sense for the "real" Mrs. Robinson to be played by the same actress who played the fictional character.