The Graduate (1967)

TheGraduate

The Graduate – 1967

Director – Mike Nichols

Starring – Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft

A classic film.  One that, I’ve been told, encapsulates an entire generation.  It sums up what it’s like being in that in-between stage in life, where you’re not quite a responsible adult, and you’re no longer a care-free kid.  I have to say that this summary of The Graduate is entirely true, although, to fully appreciate these selling points one has to be part of that demographic.  At the very least you have to be near to that demographic, otherwise the just out of college (or recent graduate, get it, get it…?) Benjamin Braddock starts to seem more and more like a shiftless young man who just doesn’t know what he wants.

The story starts out after Ben has graduated from college with a number of honors, and the pride of his parents overflowing.  The guests at his party are gushing about him, dying to know more about his time in college, but all he can think about is getting away from them and being alone.  It is during this wallowing, that he encounters Mrs. Robinson, a sexually hungry neighbor who wastes no time in seducing him.  At first Ben is frightened, but eventually days later, his curiosity gets the better of him and he voluntarily accepts her lustful advances.

Mrs. Robinson, a woman unhappy in her marriage, and unfulfilled by her choices in life, is attempting to dampen the pain through their purely physical encounters.  Conversation, and social niceties are thrown out the window, as she apathetically, almost coldly manipulates Benjamin in order to get what she wants.  Benjamin, fascinated by the attention he is getting from her, doesn’t quite know how to handle the clinical approach that Mrs. Robinson takes, and continually attempts to engage her.  Ultimately he persists long enough, and delves deep enough to find out something of why she is engaged in this deception of her family with him.

During their affair, Ben lets everything else in his life slide.  The drive and ambition that defined him in his college career, now gives way to malaise and ennui, causing his parents to finally confront him.  In an attempt to get him back on track, it is suggested that Ben take Elaine Robinson out on a date (his parents are un-aware of Ben’s affair with Elaines mother).  Ben’s submission on this issue, and his and Elaine’s subsequent date sets into motion the main conflict of the movie.

While this movie almost certainly defines what it is like to be young, and to break free of the mold that has been set for you, it also chronicles the consequences of such impulsivity.  For every life altering decision that Benjamin Braddock makes to forge his own way, there is a life long regret that Mrs. Robinson is continually trying to make up for.  For every plot element that looks forward into a promising future, there is an equally strong storyline looking back on decisions that can’t be un-made.

That being said, what you get out of this film depends entirely on where you are in your own life as you watch it.  I for example, just turned thirty, am engaged, and have a steady job that I work hard at everyday.  I see the folly in Benjamin’s decisions more than I do the glamour.  Dustin Hoffman does a great job of playing the impulsive, wandering, naivety that most college kids our just out of school.  He is young capable of getting what he wants, and most of all he is only really concerned with himself, and what seems to be best for him in the present.  Anne Bancroft on the other hand, does a fantastic job of playing the person who used to be just like Benjamin Braddock.  Someone who, only now, can see the error of her choices.

Visually, the film is put together beautifully.  It flows together much like the characteristic songs from the soundtrack.  Each shot goes with the next, and is bourne from the last.  The patterns layered in the montage scenes repeat themselves to illustrate the scheduled and repetitive nature of Ben’s life, and start to fall away when he becomes more impulsive and free-wheeling.  The color is rich and vibrant, which aides  the slightly unreal quality that one feels after completing  something as life-changing and influential as graduating college.

While the Graduate maybe didn’t have the same effect on me that it did on others, it did have an effect none the less.  While I don’t think it is the film that completely defines who I am, or who I was, neither are the films that at one time did define me.  As much as Lost in Translation once meant to me, i’m coming to it from a different perspective now, and it doesn’t quite mean the same thing.  That being said, just because it doesn’t define me, doesn’t mean it isn’t saying something important anyhow.  The same is true for The Graduate.

“Hoffman at his tannest.” – Ashley

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5 thoughts on “The Graduate (1967)

  1. Pingback: 1001 Movies – The Complete List « 1001 Movies I Must Comment On Before I Die!

  2. I had to watch this movie twice before its charms sank in. The soundtrack is a bit much — if you hear “Scarborough Fair” once you’ve heard it 1,000 times — but Dustin Hoffman is dynamite. He’s as much the voice of his disaffected 20something generation as Kurt Cobain was for his.

    Another thing I like about “The Graduate” is the way Mike Nichols refused to soften Anne Bancroft’s sexuality. She is overtly sexy in ways most directors cannot handle. Nichols lets her follow her instincts, and it works. Very well. There’s a reason she’s become an iconic character.

    • I enjoyed it, but it seemed less immediate and affecting than I was hoping for. I will definitely have to check it out again. I went ahead and bought it, so it should be easy enough anyway.

      I actually found Anne Bancroft’s character to be the least cartoonish. She was playing less of a generational stereotype, and more of real character who is exasperated and tired by all the cartoons around her. It made me look forward to when her character was on the screen.

      Finally, I agree that the music was good, but overused. I guess that’s how they became so iconic!

  3. the moral of the story? Be careful what you wish for. It’s perfectly summed up in the last shot. Benjamin and Elaine on the bus, in silence. (hmmm, there’s that song again) It is NOT a happy ending.

    • And in terms of illustrating that moral, I would say The Graduate was very successful.

      I have seen that last section of the movie, from his run to the church, all the way through the bus shot, maybe 20 different times in film school. The strength of that scene (not to mention all the hype and praise heaped on this film) made me very excited to finally see the rest of it. Unfortunately (as I hopefully got across in the review) it wasn’t so much a matter of content as it was of my perspective. It was about the life experiences that I brought to the film.

      Thanks for the response! I’m always glad to hear what others think.

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