Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Graduate

Released in 1967, The Graduate was directed by Mike Nicholas and stars Dustin Hoffman as young graduate Ben Braddock, Anne Bancroft as Ms Robinson, and Katherine Ross as Elaine (who played Etta in Butch Cassidy!), and is ranked number 7 in the AFI 100 Greatest Movies of All Times.

Recently graduated, Ben returns home, confused about his future. Shortly after his return, he is seduced by Ms Robinson, the wife of his father’s business partner, and the two start an affair, up until Ben falls for the Robinson’s daughter Elaine. From there onwards, Mr Robinson will do anything to ruin Ben’s life.
The film is more complex than it looks. For one thing, I wish I had been born when it was released – the 1960s were a time of change and, although sex with an older woman before marriage is pretty common, even boring, in our society, standards existed at the time, and the film must have been pretty shocking when it was released. It’s almost like an historical document.
There is also quite a lot of psychology involved. Ben is lost, confused, and awkward. His confusion is portrayed (I think) through the various images of water in the film: he is often seen drifting in the pool, symbol maybe of his drowning? He says it straight at the beginning, that he imagined his future would be different. Lost and confused, he is no match for predator Ms Robinson, who undertakes his sexual education and almost does not give him a choice. I really think the poor guy does not see it coming. He is so inexperienced and strange, the seduction scenes are hilarious.

Benjamin: For god's sake, Mrs. Robinson. Here we are. You got me into your house. You give me a drink. You... put on music. Now you start opening up your personal life to me and tell me your husband won't be home for hours.
Mrs. Robinson: So?
Benjamin: Mrs. Robinson, you're trying to seduce me.

Benjamin: Look, maybe we could do something else together. Mrs. Robinson, would you like to go to a movie?

Ben evolved throughout the movie, and becomes a man. Confused, he realizes he loves Elaine, and does not give up. On the other side, deep down, Ms Robinson is a woman unhappy with her life, jealous of her own daughter, looking for her lost younth back, who did not get the life she wanted and is therefore determined to make anyone around her miserable, which I think transpired the most at the very end. Well, that’s my take on it anyway.

Mrs. Robinson: Elaine, it's too late!
Elaine: Not for me!

On key element that make the film pleasant to watch is the soundtrack by Simon and Garfunkel, with great tunes, although I got to admit when I heard Sounds of Silence for the third or fourth time I got a bit tired of it.
The characters are developed enough for my personal taste, and I thought some of the scenes took too long (at the beginning when Ben blankly stares at his fish tank) while some others would have deserved more time: the revelation of Ms Robinson affair with Ben to Elaine for instance. I also had an issue with the choice of Dustin Hoffman: I realize I may be biased, but to me he’ll always be RainMan, and in this film he did have some rain-man-y moments which I found slightly disturbing: the guy’s a successful graduate who’s confused, not an idiot. Anyway, although probably many people won’t agree on this, that was my impression. Which does not mean that I don't absolutely love Dustin Hoffman! I am glad I got to see this film though, don’t get me wrong, it certainly falls in the “Classic” category, and I did have fun. Scenario is less complex than what we’d see in today’s films, but all in all an enjoyable moment.

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