Before his revival as the star of Yellowstone, Kevin Costner had a long, awkward stretch of increasingly odd and terrible movies. Some of them tried to play with his image as America’s kinda-cool jeans-wearing dad, like Mr. Brooks; he was a serial killer with an imaginary friend played by William Hurt in that one. Others tried to go back to the sports drama well that had been so kind to him in the past, but neither Sam Raimi’s For Love of the Game or Draft Day really made an impact in culture. While there is a lot to choose from, the nadir of this painful period in Kevin Costner’s career might be Rumor Has It, the 2005 comedy in which he has sex with three generations of women in a family. If that sentence intrigued you, you should know that Rumor Has It is currently streaming on Netflix.
Bizarrely, the central conceit that Kevin Costner’s character in Rumor Has It apparently has an intense sexual rapport with the women of a specific family is not the weirdest part of the movie. The weirdest part of the movie is that it posits that the 1967 classic film The Graduate (and the 1963 novel by Charlie Webb) was largely based on a true story. If you recall, the plot of The Graduate is that Dustin Hoffman’s disaffected yuppie is in a relationship with Katharine Ross, then has an affair with her mother, Anne Bancroft, and the young pair run away from a wedding to the folk-rock sounds of Simon & Garfunkel. It is where we get both the song and the catchphrase of “Mrs. Robinson.”
In Rumor Has It, Kevin Costner’s character was fictionalized into Dustin Hoffman by his college roommate Charlie Webb, Shirley MacLaine is Mrs. Robinson and Jennifer Aniston sleeps with Kevin Costner after discovering that he has had sex with both her mother and grandmother. It is also made clear that Costner had a fling with Aniston’s mother before her wedding, so her actual father is not Dustin Hoffman (from the movie). Also, Kevin Costner’s character was kicked in the testicles in a high school soccer game and is sterile. While that may neatly remove any chance of this already very strange movie turning queasily incestual, it seems it might have been easier to just say Kevin Costner was sterile rather than give a highly specific and slapstick-adjacent reason for it.
Rumor Has It begins with Jennifer Aniston quickly summing up her own family history and how it inspired The Graduate and a whole bunch of high society gossip. Then it jumps backward in time to show her attending the wedding of her younger sister (Mena Suvari) with her dopily sweet lawyer boyfriend (Mark Ruffalo) and being clued in to the whole Kevin Costner situation by an uncredited Kathy Bates. It is an odd choice to begin the movie with an exposition dump by a character who then has to learn the information herself over the course of the film, but at least we are mercifully spared a freezeframe record-scratch and the classic “yep, that’s me. Let me tell you how I got here.”
But it is pretty close to that. To the credit of Rumor Has It and all involved, it is surprisingly funny whenever it is not concentrating on the idea that tech billionaire Kevin Costner (yes, he is a Silicon Valley mogul with a heart of gold for some reason) sleeps with everyone. A lot of that can be credited to the comedic instincts of director Rob Reiner, who was brought in by executive producer Steven Soderbergh after he fired writer/original director Ted Griffin.
Between all the family drama with Kevin Costner and Jennifer Aniston, there are weirdly funny moments like Mark Ruffalo trying to bond in an airport with Aniston’s father (an always great Richard Jenkins) by trash-talking the St. Louis Rams, only to cut to a car presumably miles away with Jenkins still talking about the Rams. There is also a scene in which Ruffalo gets stuck in an airplane bathroom with another man and the two awkwardly try to make small talk while back to back with a stranger. Or there’s the scene in which Ruffalo tries to start singing “Mrs. Robinson” and is immediately hit in the face by a door flung open by Shirley MacLaine. In short, Mark Ruffalo kind of saves this film.
Or rather, he saves moments. Rumor Has It has a 21% on Rotten Tomatoes, putting it in the bottommost movies of Kevin Costner’s career. It also sank at the box office, where a comedic quasi-sequel to a moody 1967 film in which Costner got kicked so hard in the groin that he can’t have children somehow did not bring audiences out in droves. But all that said, Rumor Has It is a movie that is so weirdly light in tone with such odd conflicts and broad humor that it has to be seen to be believed. Fortunately, you can.