MOVIE REVIEW: “The Graduate” stars Dustin Hoffman (Rain Man, Tootsie), Anne Bancroft (To Be or Not to Be , The Miracle Worker), Katherine Ross (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Stepford Wives ), William Daniels (Boy Meets World [TV series], St. Elsewhere [TV series]), Murray Hamilton (Jaws, Anatomy of a Murder), Elizabeth Wilson (9 to 5, Quiz Show), Brian Avery (Sleeper, Traffic), and Norman Fell (Three’s Company [TV series], Bullitt). It is directed by Mike Nichols (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Working Girl), with the screenplay being written by Buck Henry (Get Smart [TV series], Catch-22) and Calder Willingham (Paths of Glory, Little Big Man).
Benjamin Braddock (Hoffman) is a college graduate with no direction in life… until he begins an affair with Mrs. Robinson (Bancroft). If matters couldn’t get more complicated, he ends up falling in love with her daughter, Elaine Robinson (Ross).
July saw the return of Criterion Collection’s epic 50% off sale at Barnes and Noble (and online vendors), prompting me to venture out and pick up some arthouse flicks. The first of which being Mike Nichols’ American classic, “The Graduate,” which gave him his first (and only) Academy Award for Best Director and introduced the world to the star that is Dustin Hoffman.
What’s important to note about “The Graduate” is just how modern it is. From the story to the direction, this is a film that reads as well today as it did back in 1967. I was engaged in the characters and their dilemma; though I could not necessarily relate, I did empathize with Hoffman’s Benjamin Braddock, who after graduating from college is looking for the next thing to do. His journey is full of confusion, sadness, and laughs.
Chief among all the aspects of this feature is Nichols’ direction. My goodness. The shots, the performances. His guidance and process (which consisted of an unheard of three week rehearsal leading up to shooting) lent to a graceful viewing experience. You can tell there’s a confidence in all the gears working this engine, which in turn helped the narrative to connect with audiences both then and today (just ask any aspiring or working filmmakers, most of whom take great inspiration from this flick).
Hoffman shines. I haven’t seen much from the actor (aside from “Rain Man” and a few newer, sparse roles), but he does a terrific job capturing the shy, unsure nature of Benjamin Braddock. There’s plenty to connect with the character on, and plenty to get frustrated with. Because Hoffman doesn’t have the looks of your typical young heartthrob in the pictures (there were talks to get Robert Redford to play the role), he’s all the more life-like. And his interactions with this terrific ensemble make for many memorable moments. Anne Bancroft stuns and Katherine Ross excites. Bancroft in particular blew me away with not just her beauty, but her ability to control a scene. She did marvelously, giving to both humor and drama in all the right ways.
Of course, I can’t write this review without mentioning the music. Simon and Garfunkel. If you aren’t fans of them, you won’t care as much, but it was a pure treat to hear their music absorb the frame. “Sound of Silence” was the main theme for Benjamin, and the classic “Mrs. Robinson” was born from this film. Fantastic. Insert chef’s kiss. Paul Simon is a genius, and while – from the outset – having his music in this movie seems odd, it works beautifully. Nichols made the right choice picking these guys to be the backing.
Really, my biggest (and one of the few) gripe about this film is its third act. While it has a memorable last scene, the motivation behind Ross’ Elaine to still love Benjamin baffles me. Honestly, it doesn’t make a lick of sense, unless she is completely nuts. If you’re to find out that the person you’ve been seeing has been secretly sleeping with one of your parents, could you ever love them? Not me, that’s for sure. And I don’t think I’m apart of the minority. It just wasn’t a believable choice, making for a third act push that didn’t bode to well with me.
When it comes down to it, “The Graduate” is timeless. It’s funny, wonderfully acted, and brilliantly shot. A true lesson in filmmaking. Sure, it has some flaws, but the pros outweight the cons. It’s a movie worth watching, and if you haven’t seen it, I recommend it. FINAL SCORE: 90%= Juicy Popcorn
Here is the (spoiler-filled) trailer: