#8) The Graduate (1967) [Original 2017 Post]

1967-the-graduate#8) The Graduate (1967)

OR “Mind the Generation Gap”

Directed by Mike Nichols

Written by Calder Willingham and Buck Henry. Based on the novel by Charles Webb.

Class of 1996

Original Theatrical Trailer

This is my original “Graduate” write-up, but wouldn’t you rather read the revised, expanded version instead?

The Plot: Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) has just graduated from a fancy east coast college and returns to his parents’ house in California for the summer. Unsure of what he wants to do with his life, Benjamin spends his days lounging in the pool, and his nights sleeping with family friend Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft). Things get complicated as outcast Benjamin starts to come into his own, and get more complicated with the arrival of Mrs. Robinson’s daughter Elaine (Katharine Ross).

Why It Matters: The NFR cites the work of Nichols, Henry, Hoffman and especially Bancroft. Their description of the film also goes out of its way to point out that the film seems dated in places and doesn’t quite capture the ‘60s the way “Easy Rider” does. The expanded essay by Jami Bernard is much more forgiving.

But Does It Really?: Many will carp about the film not quite capturing the ‘60s, but “The Graduate” is the right film at the right time. When America was feeling uncertain about its future, along came Benjamin Braddock. This is one of the rare films that is a truly cinematic adaptation of a novel. It takes the exact same story and tells it in visuals just as much as in words (if not more). This is all grounded by the star-making turns of Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft. He’s too old for the role and she’s too young, but together they are giving performances that are about as perfect as you could ask for.

Everybody Gets One: A trove of TV actors are featured in this one; William “Mr. Feeny” Daniels, Norman “Mr. Roper” Fell, and Marion “Aunt Clara” Lorne. But special mention must go to Walter Brooke. A film veteran of 25 years at the time of filming, Brooke achieved film immortality with just one word.

Wow, That’s Dated: Drive-in restaurants. Bossa nova as mood music. In addition, once the film does its on-location shots, the ‘60s love generation comes out in full force.

Take a Shot: The word “graduate” is not said until 43 minutes in, and then is only said one more time in the film. Even if you extend the word to its variations, you’re not getting buzzed.

Seriously, Oscars?: With seven nominations, and with competition that included “Bonnie and Clyde” and “In the Heat of the Night”, “The Graduate” ended up taking one statue; Best Director for Mike Nichols. Amazingly, this is one of the rare times that a film only won in the Best Director category without winning anything else.

Other notes

  • I guess the film is now owned by Studio Canal. The version I saw began with their current logo, which is incredibly out of place with this film.
  • Between Mike Nichols’ direction and the cinematography by Robert Surtees, the generation gap between Benjamin and his parents is immediate and powerful.
  • Regarding Ben’s isolation; does he have zero friends? One wonders what he must have been like as a roommate.
  • This film proves time and again that comedy is drama plus detail (a line that some attribute to Nichols’ old sparring partner Elaine May). The scene where Benjamin tries to book a hotel room is filled with great examples of this. There’s nothing inherently funny about getting a hotel room for your affair, but the scene’s details keep making it funnier and funnier.
  • Gotta love a montage so long it takes two songs to cover it.
  • I don’t want to slight Katharine Ross, because she’s doing fine work here, but what does Ben see in Elaine? She is so underwritten. We know nothing about what Ben sees in her other than she’s the same age as him. But then again, that may be the whole point.
  • Those who know their Bay Area geography know that when Benjamin drives on the Bay Bridge to go to Berkeley, HE’S GOING THE WRONG WAY. You can see the piers of San Francisco very clearly in the background. He should be driving on the less cinematic lower level.
  • Speaking of, I’ve been to UC Berkeley, and that ain’t it.
  • Everyone’s favorite “Before They Were Famous” moment is a young Richard Dreyfuss as one of the tenants in the boarding house. His character was, of course, studying oceanography and would eventually clash with Mr. Robinson on the subject.
  • How much easier would Ben tracking down Elaine have been if the internet had existed? It’s not a pleasant thought, but I’m going ahead with it.

Legacy

  • The Graduate Part 2 (which may or may not have Julia Roberts)
  • That time Dustin Hoffman cashed in on his own filmography.
  • That running joke on Season 4 of “Arrested Development”
  • The attempt to adapt the film (and the book) into a stage play. Jury’s still out.
  • [Deep exhale] Way to go, Meathead.

Listen to This: “Sounds of Silence”, Simon & Garfunkel’s first hit album, which includes two songs featured in the film; “April Come She Will” and of course, “The Sound of Silence”. “Mrs. Robinson” would be featured on side two of their first post-“Graduate” album, “Bookends”.

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