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The Graduate Review


RATING:
(4 STARS)

The reason realism is such a sought after trait in movies is because having realistic characters and realistic scenarios is the key to bringing the audience in and allowing them to relate to what’s on screen. Being able to relate heightens one’s emotional and intellectual connection to a film. Mike Nichols’ classic coming-of-age story “The Graduate,” does nearly everything right, but perhaps its chief asset is its ability to perfectly capture the uncertainty and purposelessness that haunts recent college graduates. I know because I can RELATE. There are so many reasons why this film is timeless – from the dialogue to the acting, the amazing music to the extraordinary camerawork. But the number one reason is because every year, a new batch of young people enters the real world with the exact same sense of concern, despair, and confusion as Benjamin Braddock (although maybe not the kind of confusion that would lead us all to have affairs with cougars like Mrs. Robinson).

Dustin Hoffman plays Braddock, a seemingly smart young man who has just graduated from college but is unsure (and, as a result, very nervous) about what he is going to do with his life. He isn’t taking the transition well at all. After moving back home with his parents, he just lies around the house with little desire to further his education or find a job. He also begins an affair with his father’s business partner’s wife, Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft). She seduces him one night after he drives her home from a party, and although he is resistant at first, his apathy toward just about everything else in his life drives him to indulge. But when Ben’s parents set him up with Mrs. Robinson’s daughter, Elaine (Katharine Ross), things get really complicated. Ben falls for Elaine straight away, and she enjoys his company as well, but Mrs. Robinson doesn’t think Ben is good enough for Elaine, so she threatens to derail their relationship by admitting her infidelity.

This film is as flawless as films get. The acting is exceptional. Hoffman, one of the finest and most versatile actors alive today, in my opinion, broke through with his portrayal of Benjamin. He succeeds with both the comedy and drama, nailing the voice and mannerisms associated with each. Katharine Ross is delightful and beautiful enough to make us wonder why her character wants Ben. At the same time, she and Hoffman display great chemistry, making this slightly mismatched romance go down so smoothly. Finally, what’s a discussion of “The Graduate” without dissecting the phenomenal work of Anne Bancroft. Few characters in cinema history are as memorable as Mrs. Robinson. That’s not just because of the “seduction scene.” She is a three-dimensional character, whose motives we only just understand. We don’t root for her (because she is against Ben), but we definitely feel for her.

Technically, the film is top-notch. The camerawork is exceptional – some of the finest I’ve ever seen. The shot of Benjamin asking Mrs. Robinson if she is trying to seduce him is one of the most famous of all-time. The use of Mrs. Robinson’s leg as a framing device is just genius. But the rest of the film is also really strong. The party scene in the beginning captures the inferiority Benjamin is feeling by using close-ups and making everyone else seem like they tower over Ben. And in the climactic church scene…well, let’s just say director Nichols makes the most out of the setting.

One of the things “The Graduate” is most remembered for (you know, besides the extraordinary writing, directing, acting, camerawork, etc.) is the music by Simon and Garfunkel. Everyone knows the songs – “Mrs. Robinson,” “The Sounds of Silence,” “Scarborough Fair” – but the context of the movie gives them so much more meaning.

Nichols deserves the lion’s share of the credit for this masterpiece. Besides overseeing all of the individual aspects of this production that work so well, he seamlessly blends the comedic and dramatic elements of the story. Scenes like the one at the hotel when Ben is trying to get a room for his and Mrs. Robinson’s first time is laugh-out-loud funny. Other times, like when Ben embarrasses Elaine on their first date, the film strikes a real emotional chord. Many films try to balance comedy and drama this well, but none of done as good a job as “The Graduate.” The Best Director Oscar was incredibly well-deserved.

Few films are as timeless as “The Graduate” – I would argue few films are better than “The Graduate.” The film captures what it’s like being 21, 22 years old and not knowing what to do next. It doesn’t solve that problem or offer any advice to young men and women, but it doesn’t need to. It’s a sweet, funny, honest, and realistic film that I tremendously enjoyed and thoroughly recommend.

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