Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Graduate (1967)

TOP 100 FILMS: #60

Fresh off his college graduation Ben Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) is unsure of his life's next step. After taking a ride home from his neighbor, Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft) he is caught in an intense sexual affair. Things turn bad in a hurry though when Ben finds himself falling for Mrs. Robinson's beautiful daughter, Elaine (Katharine Ross).

Alright I'll admit if you took just about any film and put a Simon and Garfunkel soundtrack to it, odds are it'll be on my good side, call it a guilty obsession. You take their music though and combine it with a intelligent film on the complexities of love and social belonging and you may have just won me over. There's no denying a sort of melodramatic mood set about throughout The Graduate. It's not a high paced thriller, not a romantic film by any means, and the central characters are rather bleak and counter-culture. At the same time there's a certain appeal to their attitudes toward life. They represent fighting against expected social norms, the white picket fence ideology that plagued the 50's, even if it's existence is arguable at best. Yet at the same time there's Elaine, a sort of representation of the social norm. Ben's struggle has always seemed to me a struggle between a counter and pro cultural existence, something I believe many of us struggle with throughout life.

Mike Nichols couldn't have done any better in the casting department. Hoffman and Bancroft pull off a wonderful sort of odd blend chemistry, wonderfully giving off the older woman, younger man vibe (despite only being 6 years apart in real life). Then of course you have the wonderful Katharine Ross whose very presence lights up the screen, really providing a strong emotional counter to the tough Mrs. Robinson. Because of their ability to play well off of one another Ben's journey, if you will, becomes all the more believable, while maintaining an odd sense of fantasy. They're not afraid to show a sort of goofy side to every day events, while really bringing about that subtle series of emotion that is at the heart of The Graduate.

Capturing these moments though lies all in the hand of Mike Nichols. Nichols' talent behind the camera is really all about finding that perfect combination of style and substance. It's those moments that really add up for The Graduate grasping at the viewer. Willingham, Henry, and Nichols understand the need for a film of this nature to be entertaining, and yet intelligent enough to keep viewers guessing, questioning, and wondering really hits at the crux of smart cinema. Sure there's a few bumps, and the ending is entirely open to interpretation (even the director has one of his own), but The Graduate is just a legend of cinema, well worthy of all the accolades it has received.

The Graduate is one of those unique turning points in cinema, impossible to ignore, and just as hard to shake off, a must see for all cinema lovers.

4 better thoughts:

Marcy said...

I love this film too.

I'd like to think there's a little bit of Ben in all of us.

But no matter what, Ben is technically pretty darn unlikable--it's Hoffman's charm that wins the audience over.

I enjoyed reading your review and I'm glad to hear it's one of your favorites.

Andrew K. said...

Only 10/10?

As you can see on my sidebar I LOVE this film. It is in my top ten. It's my fave Hoffman performance. Just great.

Ryan McNeil said...

Now you wanna have some fun? Watch THE GRADUATE as the front half of a double feature with GARDEN STATE.

Love this one - and just watched it the other day when I was home sick! I'd actually fogotten how well this movie is edited - there are some brilliant cuts in this flick!

Dan (Top10Films) said...

This is one of my all time favourites too. Such a seminal film that has lost none of its power today. The questions it poses, the answers it muses over, the ambiguity of the ending - whether you watched it in the 60s or the 2000s, it's fresh, truthful, and life-affirming.

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