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reviews and reactions to the wonderful world of film

The Graduate (1967)

with 8 comments

And here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson.

Dustin Hoffman stars as Benjamin Braddock, who recently completed his undergrad and is deciding what to do with his life.  The film begins at the Braddock’s home in California where his parents are throwing him a graduation party.  Embarrassed, frustrated, uncomfortable, he escapes and stares at his fish.  Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft) – wife of Ben’s father’s law partner and family friend, she also doesn’t have a first name apparently – finds Ben hiding.  Asks him for a ride home… asks him in the house… offers him a drink… turns on music… starts taking off her clothes…. “Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to seduce me.”  Ben’s a little taken aback by these advances of a 40 somethin’ year old woman and panics his way out of the house.  But with no direction, he doesn’t stay horrified for long.  He soon arranges their first rendez-vous at a hotel and their affair awkwardly begins.

He’s basically living the life.  Sun bathing and piña coladas in the pool by day… meeting the woman at night.  In one of their rare discussions, Mrs. Robinson forbids Ben to ever date her college-aged daughter, Elaine.  Ben’s reluctant to promise anything but doesn’t care much for the Robinson daughter so he agrees.  Too bad his parents do care.  They coerce him  into taking her out when she returns from Berkley.  With his affair between Mrs. R completely over, and despite his initial efforts to ruin their date, he starts to fall for the cute, full of life Elaine.  I’ll let you imagine where that might lead.

The great thing about The Graduate is that it takes its time.  One of the best scenes in the movie is a simple conversation between Mrs. Robinson and Ben.  The scene is quite long with many pauses, but it is one of the greatest crafted scenes I have ever seen.  Ben is flustered with their exclusively physical relationship, and starts asking questions to Mrs. Robinson.  We glimpse his eyes grow with wonder, we watch her eyes fill with pain.  There’s so much sadness and so much growth.  Needless to say the script is impeccable.  Witty, satirical, but deep.

The rest of the movie is developed in a similar fashion.  The pacing is greatly due to the music of good ol’ Paul and Art.  “The Sounds of Silence” is so perfect for the movie (as, of course, is “Mrs. Robinson”) and there are many scenes with nothing but.  It miraculously never drags.  Ben drives to see Elaine…. Ben slowly sinks in his pool, full of apprehension (great moment)… Ben lying in his pool… very little action.  I grew up listening to Simon and Garfunkel, but I never knew they were this cool.  The sounds of silence can speak so much louder than dialogue.

The Graduate is primarily a comedy – the script is evidence of that.

Ben: “Where’d you do it?”
Mrs. Robinson: “In his car.”
Ben: “What kind of car was it?”
Mrs. Robinson: “Come on now.”
Ben: “No, I really want to know.”
Mrs. Robinson: “A Ford.”
Ben: [laughs] “That’s great.  So Elaine Robinson got started in a Ford…”

It’s a funny movie, but it’s not just funny.  It’s a character study.  It makes you laugh, but I’d mostly say that it makes you smile at the realism.  The second half of the movie is greatly different from the first, its dynamic changes as Benjamin changes.  His and our attentions shift to Elaine, and his pursuit to win her over.  (Some great scenes there too… man I could rave about this whole movie scene by scene if I really wanted to).

Good acting? Check.  For me, it’s weird to think that Dustin Hoffman hasn’t always been the top dawg in his business.  I mean, this is the guy that did Rain Man, Kramer vs. Kramer, Tootsie, All the President’s Men… He’s been “the man” my whole life.  But nobody knew Dustin then.  Everyone knew Dustin after Benjamin Braddock.  Even without D. Hoffman, though, Anne Bancroft is sensational.  You hate her, you feel sorry for her.  The rest of the acting is solid as well, mainly Katherine Ross.

This film was one of the few to win the Best Director Oscar and not Best Picture.  Mike Nichols is the man.  It was nominated for basically everything else, though, including Cinematography (excellent – a constant visual treat) and Screenplay (also excellent).

And how ’bout that end?  The wedding crash to top all wedding crashes.  “It’s too late.” “Not for me!” (Granted, that IS a relationship I’d love to see in the future… how could YOU handle being with someone that had slept with your mother?)

I can’t rave enough.  With these acclaimed classics that I’d never seen, it’s difficult sometimes to figure out if you love it because you know you should love it, or if you actually love it.  I didn’t want to hand out a 10/10 just to conform.  But the more I thought about it, the fewer things I disliked.  This movie is excellent on all fronts, and truly should be considered a classic.  10/10


8 Responses

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  1. Great review Lauren, this is another of my favourite movies. I do find it funny but I think it works best because the concept still resonates now just as well as it did in the ‘60s – there isn’t one film that captures that feeling of alienation when the path of life appears so blurry as in The Graduate. And of course I love how Benjamin is released from his shell by the beautiful older woman.


    February 8, 2011 at 1:04 am

    • It’s so true. That concept of insecurity and indecision will always be something applicable to any time. Such a great movie, and a new favorite for myself. Thanks for commenting, I appreciate your feedback!


      February 8, 2011 at 6:59 pm

  2. Didn’t love it as much the last time I saw it, but who am I kidding, this is a total 10. Great review for a movie that really has no equal.

    Aiden R.

    February 15, 2011 at 8:50 am

    • I’ve now seen it twice and loved it both times, but movies and people change so you never know how it may fancy you at a particular moment. It’s so true though, nothing can compare to this genius. Thanks for commenting!


      February 15, 2011 at 6:56 pm

  3. A classic film that never gets old, and is one of the first films to show what happens when a love is misunderstood. Good Review!


    March 6, 2011 at 5:45 am

    • Agreed. Thanks for stopping by! 🙂


      March 6, 2011 at 12:56 pm

  4. I just don’t get it. I am of the generation, in 1967 I was in the army and on my way to Vietnam. I know it was a popular, major motion picture that some consider a classic. I finally read the book more than 40 years after it came out. Soon thereafter, I saw the movie. I didn’t like the book or the movie. Hoffman’s character Benjamin was a pampered pain who had life handed to him. I couldn’t conjure up any sympathy for him at all. What other people rave about I just don’t understand, the acting was bad (except for the women.) I just don’t get it. It was a reality I’ve never known.


    March 15, 2011 at 7:22 am

    • I can see your point. I wonder how I would have reacted when it came out (I wasn’t exactly alive yet…) I’ve always known it to be a classic and favorite of many. It’s hard NOT to let that affect how I watch it, but I tried to be as objective as possible and I honestly can say that it’s one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. I disagree about the acting, I think that Dustin Hoffman is excellent as Benjamin. I can see him being a little on the whiny side, haha, but I don’t necessarily blame the actor. But hey, to each his own. 🙂


      March 20, 2011 at 1:05 pm

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