The Graduate (1967)
Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft, Katharine Ross, William Daniels, Murray Hamilton
Directed by: Mike Nichols
Released by: Embassy Pictures
Synopsis: Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) just graduated college, and has no idea as to what to do with the rest of his life. Aware of the situation, Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft) begins an affair with him that makes his life more enjoyable but still has no point or purpose.
Review: “Coming of age” stories are very common in film. The story of a young character coming to grips with reality and making the best of it prove for enjoyable cinema and give us characters we can relate to. The Graduate focuses on the awkwardness of being young and having no clear focus in life. My only problem is that at times it can be too awkward.
A great chunk of the story is focused on the relationship between Ben and Mrs. Robinson. The chemistry between a young Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft is believable and the best part of the film. Problem is that it works too well. Watching their relationship unfold on screen made me feel weird, especially since the film focuses so much on it to the point where part of the story is lost in favor of giving us awkward sex scenes. In fact, had the whole film been this way, I wouldn’t have favorited it at all. But, the film redeems itself near the second act.
This is when Ben meets Elaine Robinson, played by Katharine Ross. At first their relationship is awkward and clearly forced, like the film before this. But the story does a wonderful job of developing this relationship into a sincere love story. This gives the film a clear purpose and conflict, because once Mrs. Robinson learns about this her true nature as a manipulative woman rises. The conflict then leads to one of my all time favorite movie endings. Without spoiling anything, the ending in The Graduate is very epic and romantic while still tying it to the awkwardness of growing up. At that point, The Graduate earned my respect and became one of my favorite films.
The emotions of the story are expressed via the music of Simon and Garfunkel, and they are perhaps the best thing about the movie. The songs are very calm and soothing, but expressing the character’s feelings, whether that is passion or anger. The only issue with this is that there are scenes where the songs don’t fit well. Regardless of this, the soundtrack is very memorable and even iconic. I am sure that without the soundtrack the film wouldn’t be as effective.
The Graduate’s cinematography is surprisingly spectacular given the subject of the film. Shots such as the iconic shot of Mrs. Robinson’s silk stocking leg give the film a lot of character, even if we get some very weird scenes, such as the close-up of a gorilla during the scene at the zoo. It shows that the creators of the film wanted to go above and beyond the call of duty and gave us a film that looks very good.
In the end, The Graduate might not be everyone’s favorite film. It capitalizes of the awkwardness of being young and in an erroneous relationship with an older woman. But once the movie passes this it becomes a great love story with an exciting climax. The great music and the fantastic cinematography add a lot of polish to the film, making it a must watch for anyone who has ever been in a situation they didn’t want to be in.
Rating: 4 filmstrip out of 5