The allure of this 1960s counter-culture classic may have dimmed over time, but its still a fascinating snapshot of the times, and a simply well-constructed romance/coming of age story.
The Graduate (1967) is directed by Mike Nichols and stars Dustin Hoffman as disillusioned college graduate Ben Braddock. Feeling stifled by the falsity of his parents lifestyle, he breaks away and begins to sexually experiment with older woman Mrs Robinson (Anne Bancroft) before eventually falling for her daughter Elaine (Katherine Ross).
The Graduate is a romance, but far from a conventional one. The plot and protagonist Ben exemplifies the counter-culture thematics of rebellion, experimentation and separation of generations. Its critical to the period which the film arrived in (when it was a huge hit) which means the story does have less of an impact for contemporary audiences, but also means it works exceptionally well as an illustration of the times.
The same can be said for protagonist Benjamin Braddock. A great performance from Hoffman has made this role one of his best and most quintessential, and the character goes through an impressive character arc through the film. The shy, awkward college grad has long sinced vanished by the time that final iconic shot rolls around. Some of his development at times feels rushed, as if the audience has missed a few crucial scenes, but for the most part its seamless. However, while the character may have been adored when the film first released, its possible that modern audiences could be turned off the bratty, self-centred character he appears to be. 50 years of social change can have that effect.
The rest of the cast and characters are also excellent, particularly Bancroft’s Mrs Robinson. She’s aloof and somewhat harsh, but also very endearing and even sympathetic at times. The actual of the love interest of Ross’ character Elaine is less captivating but still developed enough to not hinder the film.
Mike Nichols assured arthouse direction is also another reason the film works so well. Its not ground breaking in any way, but still deft in constructing a scene and creating unconventional shots and moments. In particular, Nichols’ ability to convey story through observation alone is exceptional. There’s very little heavy-handed dialogue or clearly expressed character motivation here – its all dependant on the audience to discover that themselves. And not treating the audiences like a bunch of idiots is always a good idea.
While modern audiences may struggle with the age of the film, as the pacing and technical construction is definitely dated, this is still a fascinating snapshot of the ideals of the 60s, and its easy to understand why the film has endured for so long as a classic. If you love unconventional romances, 60s counter-culture or just classic films, The Graduate is worth a watch.
General Audiences: Recommended
Film Buffs: Highly Recommended
Art-housers: Highly Recommended
Citizens: Must see