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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Graduate (1967/Mike Nichols)
If ever a song were more appropriate for a film, besides 'All Along the Watchtower' for "Apocalypse Now", it is 'The Sounds of Silence' preformed by Simon & Garfunkel in Mike Nichol's "The Graduate". The song, nearly word for word, describes the inner turmoil that the characters of "The Graduate" face. They are lost and confused, stuck on the bridge of life, two crossing into adulthood, and one into old age. And that's just one way to look at it.
"The Graduate" is one of the best films I have ever had the pleasure to witness, and I only wish I were alive when it was first released. Dustin Hoffman, in his first major film role, plays Benjamin Braddock: the epitome of the confused and isolated young adult male. He sits in his room and does nothing. He lies around in his parent's pool for hours on end. Ben, who has just graduated from college, is home for the summer. Then, after an awkward sexual encounter with a friend of his parents named Mrs. Robinson, a one night stand turns into a summer romance. But betrayal soon follows as Benjamin falls for Mrs. Robinson's daughter, Elaine.
Nichol's directorial genius (he won an Oscar for the film) really shows in the opening party sequence celebrating Ben's arrival home. There is a close-up of Ben's face as he stumbles his way through the event, listening to advice and shaking hands with the faceless (much like his future) masses. The camera moves in such a way that a feeling of claustrophobia comes over the viewer. They are overcome by what is going on around them, much like Benjamin is at this crossroads in his life. Another example is when Ben first arrives at the fateful hotel where he meets Mrs. Robinson for sex. He walks around the lobby, suspicious that the desk clerk is on to him, and then he attempts to walk into a room. Only a large group of the elderly walks out, and Benjamin stands there holding the door for them. Then he proceeds inside, only to be passed by a group of high school students. This image once again reinforces the crossroads that Ben is at in his life.
After finally viewing this classic, I realized that many of my favorite directors to emerge from the 90's (mainly Wes Anderson) were greatly influenced by this film. What's more interesting is that "The Graduate" was a landmark film for American cinema and the decade in which it was released, sharing the same themes that Benjamin experiences throughout the film. Most of American cinema was very conventional up until the 60's. Nothing extremely scandalous was shown in a film, and many serious topics were not widely addressed through cinema yet. "The Graduate" is the perfect mix of old and new. It's the 'bridge' that separates the standard American films from the more experimental ones that would emerge all throughout the 1970's.
The same can be said for the decade of the 1960's. America lost its innocence the day Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963. For the next five years, the country went through a spiral of events that led to the sexual revolution of the late 1960's. And "The Graduate" separates the white picket fences of the 50's and early 60's from the Rock and Roll and drugs of the late 1960's and early 70's. It's a crossroads in the middle of the most turbulent time in American history. In one of the films most ironic images, a tired and lonesome Benjamin slumps on a bench on the Berkley campus (an important place for the sexual revolution) under an American flag blowing in the wind. The flag still waves, but Benjamin is beat. He represents the fall and eventual metamorphosis of the American dream.
But aside from all its serious themes and deeper meanings, "The Graduate" is a comedy at its heart. It contains one of the funniest and most exciting climaxes in cinema. And the final image is a knockout. It shows Benjamin and Elaine sitting at the end of a bus filled with elders, looking ahead blankly, at the road and at their future. Then the bus drives off in the distance. They do not know where their future is headed, or where the bus is even going. It was the same circumstance for America in 1967. The film closes with the same song it opened with: "The Sounds of Silence".
What a ride....This is a perfect example of what art can generate if one puts soul and wit into it. Firstly, I find human emotions and life issues depicted in a bitter-comic manner to be a charming combination.Love,sex,insecurity,family relationships,shyness,deception are treated with great humor and witty dialog in this movie.Long and elaborated shots,incredible story-telling creativity (like 1-st person camera views,long still frames,distance frames),video-clip like sequences (beautifully sustained by Simon and Garfunkel's heart-warming poetry and sad irony).There is enough creative film work in The Graduate to suffice for 10 movies.The dialog is excellent and the acting pure genius.And, oh...the time frame...the sixties...don't get me started.The 2000's are like an insurance seminar compared to that... No need to praise this movie anymore, it speaks for itself.It is not,however,a movie for the masses.This is no Ben-Hur type of flick,with spectacular imagery and epic storyline.It is an epic of the inner soul.It requires a bit of meditation, it is only entertaining if you get in touch with your inner self and not expect to watch the screen and BE entertained. Despite its comic appearance,I always felt that it touched a sensitive somehow sad chord in me.It's kinda like:"Haha very funny, but I felt those type of emotions and they didn't seem funny then."It's also so easy to laugh at other people's feelings,torments and emotions, but when you realize that you are also part of that old human comedy and drama, your laughing becomes more restrained.More mature.I always connected with this movie, and with Mike Nichols.Too bad they don't make'em like this anymore.We live in an era where people like John Woo and Michael Bay are starting to dictate what we will be watching more and more.What a shame....
Here's to you Mrs. Robinson. Was it the song by Simon and Garfunkel made
popular by the film, or did the film entrench the song into popular culture?
Who's to say either way? It's a matter of opinion, and it's irrelevant
really. The fact is, it's a great song and a great movie and the two
compliment each other like peanut butter and jelly, ham and swiss or May and
This movie is for anyone who's ever wondered what they are going to do with their future, anyone who's been in love with someone their parents didn't approve of, or anyone who's had an affair with one of their parent's friends. Granted, not many will fall in the latter category, but it throws an interesting spin on the film.
The film perfectly encapsulates and portrays the feelings of self-doubt, alienation, disenchantment and unwanted pressures and expectations for a twenty-something just out of college. Dustin Hoffman is the only person we can possibly imagine in the role of Benjamin as his imprint and superb acting makes this film a great one. As reflected on in an interview with Dustin Hoffman on the DVD, "The Graduate at 25", his life changed after this film, propelling him into something of a superstar status as his incredible talent found wide recognition. When I saw "Rushmore" I had a similar feeling about young Jason Schwartzman in the lead role. For him, time will tell. Although "Rushmore" isn't the time tested success that "The Graduate" is, anyone who enjoyed "Rushmore" would likely enjoy "The Graduate" if they haven't already seen it. They are, however, distinctly different films.
This comedy is something of a benchmark in many ways. Not many films of a comedic nature are so socially relevant and of such high quality that they make the A.F.I.'s top ten of all time. The film by many standards is more than just a contemporary comedy. It is quite possibly the best one ever made, given its widespread appeal.
It is well shot with interesting sequences and hilarious segments that hold up against the test of time. It has been a long-time favourite of mine, and I can scarcely imagine growing tired of it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
(This review concerns itself solely with a specific discussion of the latter
half of the movie, so if you have not already seen it, you probably won't
want to read this either.)
This is my second write-up for The Graduate it's kind of hard for me to shut up about this movie; it's one of my all-time favorites, and I find more and more to like every time I watch it.
What I want to talk about specifically, though, is the second half of the movie that is, everything past the point where Elaine Robinson finds out Benjamin and her mother have been having an affair. The film builds to a kind of climactic moment with that revelation, almost a mini-ending (complete with a long shot and a fade to black). Indeed, for many people, the film actually *does* end right about there: it has long been a foregone conclusion in critical circles that the film never completely finds its way back on track from this point on. That is, once the focus shifts from the relationship of Ben and Mrs. Robinson to that of Ben's pursuit of Elaine, The Graduate simply runs out of gas.
It's not my intention to argue too strenuously against this consensus: I don't believe there can be any doubt that the first half of the movie is much sharper, funnier, more intense, and just all-around more involving than the second half. (Though I do believe that by the first part being *so* strong, and involving us so well, it does tend to make the weaknesses of the second part less jarring than they should be: we already know and care about these characters Benjamin, anyway and want to follow them anywhere, no matter how sketchy and unfocused their stories begin to seem.)
No, the point I want to make here is that, though The Graduate becomes a different *kind* of film in the second half (a romance, versus the sex farce/comedy of manners that was the first half), it never ceases being jaundice-eyed and satirical about its characters. I say this because it is an easy enough assumption to make that the film makers expect us to take Benjamin's love for and quest of Elaine at face value: to believe that they were `meant for' each other, and that their ultimate triumph is a resolution to be sincerely wished for.
In reality, it is nothing of the sort. Ben and Elaine barely know each other at least not in any meaningful way when he begins his intense courtship of her (`stalking' might be the better term). There's something undeniably creepy and unsettling about Benjamin's fixation on Elaine: it's as if he's on a quest to woo and win her, but he's doing it primarily for the sake of being on a quest (and perhaps as a way of jump-starting himself out of the rut that his relationship with Mrs. Robinson has become). There's nothing specific about Elaine that is spelled out for the audience as to why she might appeal to Ben so much save for the simple fact that she's NOT Mrs. Robinson. This lack has often been attributed to poor screenwriting and a flawed conception and, while that's an understandable conclusion to draw given the second half's other failings, I don't believe this is actually the case. Whatever you may think of it as a thematic strand, I believe this sense of blankness in the relationship between Ben and Elaine was deliberate on the part of the filmmakers - ie. they knew what they were doing, and what point they were trying to make.
And that point relates directly to the fallacy of romantic love. We see many scenes of Ben viewing Elaine longingly from afar (to the omnipresent strains of Simon and Garfunkel), the camera's soft-focus making it all seem like something out of a fable, or (more likely) a Harlequin romance. But, as an audience, we are so used to (just as much today as back in 1967) accepting these kinds of shots and poses as a shorthand for deep love, and a feeling that the two characters in question were `meant' to be together, that we are easily fooled into thinking that that is just what the film makers have in mind for these two. In reality, it's an insightful (visual) comment upon just how such `shorthand' in not only film, but any of the arts (literature, song, painting, etc.) screws up young people such as Ben and Elaine, giving them the illusion of love and passion being there when they aren't.
Which explains the film's ending that is, its very last shot. It should be joyous and celebratory, as Ben has succeeded in his goal snatching his beloved away from the altar and claiming her for himself (and she going along willingly, even giddily). But after the initial enthusiasm wears off, the smiles on the two of them dissipate and our final image of them is one of sheer dejection and confusion. And it must be so, because they have been duped by years of pop culture hogwash into believing that this is what true love is; the realization hits them hard that they don't have the slightest idea what they're doing together. And so Ben's dilemma of what to do with his `future' continues: he has wound up in exactly the same place he was at the beginning of the movie only now with an equally confused human being as an appendage.
As I say, all this may not make you *like* the second part of the movie any better than you do (I can appreciate it, but on a different, somewhat lesser, level than the first part). But I think it's at least important to be clear what the film makers were after, and to judge it according to how well it hits *that* mark, rather than the one we may have been *fooled* into thinking they were going for.
What a wonderful time capsule. Not being old enough to grasp the entire "Swinging 60's" movement, I can't help but think this was pretty true to form to what was going on back then. Dustin Hoffman is of course great, but Ann Bancroft steals the movie, dominating every scene even when she's not in it. It must have been quite a risk for her to not only play an "older woman," especially in age conscious Hollywood, but also to play so much against "type." The music, the clothes, the houses all harken back to when America was discovering not every one lived like Ozzie and Harriet, and that a stiff martini could certainly loosen ones morals. The sexual energy this movie projects oozes across the screen and makes one feel like a voyeur.
Dustin Hoffman is outstanding in his breakthrough role as a troubled
young adult who is worried about his future. His awkwardness is
endearing and universal. To this day, there are people who can relate
to his Ben Braddock.
The music is one of the biggest accomplishments of this film. Simon and Garfunkel perfectly depict Ben's moods throughout the movie with their timeless classics.
Overall, this movie is well-written, well-played, and well-directed. It is a humorous and sensitive account of the difficulties of a young adult. It is definitely worth viewing.
I saw this film for the first time in September 1968, after working for just one year as a professional cinematographer. I rapidly saw it five more times, in order to observe technical details of the photography of the film, but every time I completely forgot to look at those details, since I became so absorbed by the film every time. Now, after more than 35 years as a cinematographer and film teacher, I still marvel at Mike Nichols' and Robert Surtees' work every time I see the film. Almost everything you can do with a camera can be seen in this film, and everything is perfectly right for the story. The Graduate is groundbreaking in more areas than the photography. The casting, writing, acting, picture and sound editing are all exceptionally good, and have influenced film-making ever since. I was very happy when I saw that The Graduate reached the 7th position in the American Film Institute's voting of the best American films in history.
Many of the remarks which are critical of this film are coming from
people who are too young to have fully understood the mood of the
sixties. Young people today embrace the goals of career advancement and
material success as all-important, and in that respect, they are much
like the older generation of the sixties. The younger generation of
that era are, of course, today's older generation. At the time (though
it may be hard to tell now), they rejected the values of their parents
and were idealistic and Utopian in their approach to life. The
generation gap was the biggest issue of the day (aside from the Vietnam
War) and it was a recurrent theme in this film. The shallow, cynical,
and corrupt older generation were wonderfully depicted by the boozing
Robinsons. They wallowed in bourgeois elitism and hypocrisy, an apt
theme the extravagant, big band lounge music that Mrs. Robinson puts on
after Ben drives her home from the party. Recall, as well, the
seemingly off-the-wall advice given to Ben by a man at the party: "One
word, son -- plastics!" Actually, it might have been good advice,
considering the way things have developed, but it sure didn't seem so
at the time. The older generation were "plastic" (artificial and
phony), whereas the younger generation strove to be honest and natural,
though obviously, few succeeded at it for long. In any case, you had to
have been there to fully appreciate and understand these references,
which at the time were anything but subtle.
Even though Mrs. Robinson is undeniably a far more sophisticated and sexy woman than her pretty, naive daughter, Elaine represents the unapologetic and uncompromising idealism of the younger generation. Ben, who more than anything wanted his life to be "different" and grew tired of his purely physical relationship with Elaine's mother, just naturally shifted his romantic attachment to her daughter. The movie's score began to play a more important role as he courted her. I don't necessarily agree with those who claim the second part of the movie wasn't as good as the first. Although Ben indeed may have been kidding himself about just how much he loved and needed Elaine, he nevertheless fervently pursued her, and his love for the girl, whether real or imagined, represented what he considered most important in life. This was a real parting of the ways from the values of the older generation, who appeared to place romantic love fairly low on their list of priorities. In fact, without so many examples of their cynical and oft-nauseating attitudes continually in evidence, the movie changed into something else, just as it did in real life when the relatively innocent younger generation tried to experience life on their own terms (which few of them ever succeeded at doing for very long).
"The Graduate" was thus a classic movie that spoke for an entire generation. It is easy to understand why many members of the younger generation of today would be turned off by this movie. They are like the older generation of yesterday (only more so)-- boozing at an early age, driven by a desire to achieve material success above all else, obsessed with gadgets and other ephemeral distractions, and terrified that they might be perceived as "losers," which not coincidentally is the biggest insult they can apply to one another or to members of the older generation of today. Benjamin Braddock would be, to them, "a loser" who didn't know what was important or what he ought to want. When their own kids reach maturity and begin to seek greater meaning and purpose than the emphasis on money and position that is obviously so important to their parents, watch them reject almost everything Generation X stands for. It will be "The Graduate" all over again.
"The Graduate" scourges the shallowness of the sixties, kicks against its smug and sanctimonious middle classes: xenophobic, materialistic and spoiled. Mrs. Robinson is the epitome of the devil-may-care LA bourgeoisie and represents the darker side of America's American Dream that is sedated by pills, desensitized by liquor, mind dulled by television, sanitized by the latest Tupperware and gleaming colors to sugarcoat the humdrum of suburban life (Mr. McGuire: I want to say one word to you. Just one word. - Benjamin: Yes, sir. - Mr. McGuire: Are you listening? - Benjamin: Yes, I am. - Mr. McGuire: Plastics.). The adulterous relationship between Mrs. Robinson and Ben is sex for sex only and is cast in terms of indifference, coldness and vulgarity. Mrs. Robinson is like a beast of prey, hungering for sex, absorbing young men's bodies to fight off the specter of old age, hysterically suppressing the anxiety that it causes, keeping her young daughter, whom she regards as her competitor and therefore, adversary, neurotically at bay. The true love between Elaine and Ben, on the other hand, surpasses the tasteless, the absurd and offers hope of a better generation to come (Mr. Braddock: What's the matter? The guests are all downstairs, Ben, waiting to see you. Benjamin: Look, Dad, could you explain to them that I have to be alone for a while? Mr. Braddock: These are all our good friends, Ben. Most of them have known you since, well, practically since you were born. What is it, Ben? Benjamin: I'm just... Mr. Braddock: Worried? Benjamin: Well... Mr. Braddock: About what? Benjamin: I guess about my future. Mr. Braddock: What about it? Benjamin: I don't know... I want it to be... Mr. Braddock: To be what? Benjamin:... Different.) Truly, a bridge over troubled water...
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I'm 16. I am of the world-weary, cynical 90s generation, yadda yadda. Did I
like the film? I loved it. It's a film which can speak to young people,
regardless of era. How better to depict the pressure, the confusion we
sometimes feel, than that scene where Benjamin dons scuba gear and is urged
to get in the water...he is pushed into the water repeatedly...finally sinks
The cinematography is fantastic. The *way* the film was shot...that in itself pushes the film above "average". It's true Benjamin is too naive/plain-crazy to be "real". But Benjamin is supposed to be viewed as a symbol of confused youth, of being unsure...lost. Hoffman was great (though I found it difficult to believe he was a star athlete!). In fact, I think the whole cast was wonderful.
The scene I...remember the best, has to be the last scene. The couple has dashed onto the bus, full of adrenaline, passion. Then they sit down and... are silent. Not even looking at each other. The bus takes them God-knows-where...and the last shot, of their two heads through the back windows of the bus, separate from each other...one of those times you understand the phrase "a picture paints a thousand words".
Oh, and that cross-waving scene is way cool. :)
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