Director: Mike Nichols
Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft, Murray Hamilton, Katharine Ross, William Daniels, Elizabeth Wilson
Rated: PG (…but would probably be closer to a light R in the modern ratings system)
A disillusioned college graduate finds himself torn between his older lover and her daughter.
By Cole Schneider
Aside from the opportunity to be seduced by a brilliant film on the big screen, the 50th anniversary of “The Graduate” (1967) is an opportunity to reflect on the state of film then and now. “The Graduate” is such a lasting and celebrated film in part because director Mike Nichols and star Dustin Hoffman are as adroit as their reputations insist and in part because “The Graduate” was able to blend their talent with a screenplay combining the best elements of classics still years away.
It predated both the calmly unsettling dramas that followed 1969’s “Midnight Cowboy” and the neurotically experimental comedies that followed Woody Allen’s best run beginning with 1977’s “Annie Hall”. It’s not only that “The Graduate” came first, however; it’s that in many ways it still comes across as a more mature work than even its greatest descendants. “Midnight Cowboy” is as restrained and grimy, but lacks its satirical punch. “Annie Hall” is as funny and moving, but so much of it is built off farcical one-liners and non sequiturs instead of the more mordant, reserved comedy in “The Graduate”.
The last few years have been depressing as we’ve seen much of the forward momentum “The Graduate” built shoved backward. Where “The Graduate” and the multitude of great films made in its wake were able to bring a smile that slowly faded to the deep, dour resonance promised throughout, recent years have brought praise for dishonest films like “Little Miss Sunshine” and “Silver Linings Playbook” who make the same promises, but don’t have the fortitude to conclude their stories in honest ways. Where “The Graduate” rings true, many of today’s similar films unfortunately ring false.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
By Matt Greene
At risk of sounding trite, The Graduate is like life: comedy and tragedy are rarely far apart. This choice to never stray far from either side of the theatrical mask is largely responsible for this classic’s enduring appeal. However, it’s far from its only success. Fans of Wes Anderson take notice: director Nichols edits and shoots with bold experimentation for this sort of dramedy; jump cutting in time, slow shifting camera focus, and long takes full of brilliant acting punctuate this fighting-to-come-of-age romance that flies past the conventions of its era to sit alongside the best that modern indie films offer.
Ben Braddock, a recent college graduate, returns home to find himself roped into an affair with older acquaintance Mrs. Robinson. We quickly realize that Ben is essentially a fish in an aquarium, with no control over any aspect of his life, as his dead-eyes blindly follow his parents, Mrs. Robinson, and society’s expectations. Hoffman and Bancroft are of course phenomenal. Their characters couldn’t be more different (Hoffman anxious and spineless, Bancroft cool and emotionally broken), yet they dance around each other with wit and uncomfortable believability. Tons of great moments and characters calmly ignite the screen, each filled with humor, awkwardness, and poignancy.
On top of being a fairly on-the-nose coming-of-age parable, the entire piece is a giant critique of anything and everything (coddled parenting, youthful cynicism, stodginess, frivolity, romance, attaining happiness, even the idea of ultimate purpose). It recognizes that making decisions, even wrong ones, is an important part of adulthood. Yet despite its skeptical view, warm characters and strict honesty have allowed it to age with as much grace as bite.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars