Over fifty years after its theatrical release, comedy-drama The Graduate manages to hold up as one of the best films of all time.
Imagine graduating college and not knowing what you’re going to do with the rest of your life. Is your future going to be in plastics as Mr. McGuire (Walter Brooke) suggests? Twenty-year-old Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) grows increasingly uncomfortable at his own graduation party. Question after question until none other than his father’s law partner’s wife, Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft), asks that he drive her home. What should be a thankless task certainly turns into something much bigger. Well, this is just one way of putting it.
One thing leads to another and the next thing Benjamin knows, a naked Mrs. Robinson attempts to seduce him. Anyone with the right sense of mind would have run out while they still had the chance! Where Mrs. Robinson attempts to seduce the college graduate, Benjamin starts to date Elaine Robinson (Katherine Ross). Only time will tell what the future holds for everyone.
While Dustin Hoffman went on to receive an Oscar nomination, the initial reviews weren’t so kind towards the actor. During an interview, Hoffman would go on to describe the comments as being “veiled anti-Semitism.” While the remarks in reviews are unfortunate, this would be a breakthrough performance.
Meanwhile, Anne Bancroft puts on a show. One could call it the role of a lifetime. Well, except for the fact that Bancroft would only win one Oscar in her career for The Miracle Worker. This is beside the point. Mrs. Robinson is not the nicest person and there’s no discounting this. However, roles such as this one do not come around all that often. They really don’t.
There’s a question of which lens we view this film through. Is it that of the 1960s in which it was released? Or do we opt to do so through the current #MeToo era? Should one decide to view through the latter, Benjamin doesn’t come off so well. At the same time, Mrs. Robinson doesn’t come off as a good person. A lot of this goes back to the novel by Charles Webb and the screenplay adaptation by Calder Willingham and Buck Henry. One must credit this to the brilliant acting from the late Anne Brancroft.
If Benjamin were smarter, he would have called off the affair immediately. More importantly, he should have come clean about the truth much sooner than he did. One can only wonder how things would play out in a contemporary era?
The Graduate also benefits from its Simon and Garfunkel soundtrack. With so many hit songs, the soundtrack goes down as an all-time great. It’s kind of funny because the music was originally placed in the film as temp music during editing. None of these songs were ever supposed to make the final cut. Lo and behold, the film simply wouldn’t work without the folk-rock duo. There are very few rock-focused soundtracks can rival that of The Graduate.
DIRECTOR: Mike Nichols
SCREENWRITERS: Calder Willingham and Buck Henry
CAST: Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft, Katharine Ross, William Daniels, Murray Hamilton, Elizabeth Wilson
Embassy Pictures opened The Graduate in theaters on December 22, 1967. Grade: 5/5