The Graduate – IMDb 249/250
“Mrs Robinson you’re trying to seduce me.” This classic, often misquoted line from the 1967 film The Graduate is just one of many iconic moments that take place in this coming of age drama about 20 year old Benjamin Braddock, a recent graduate who begins an affair with the wife of his father’s business partner, the aforementioned Mrs Robinson.
I first watched this film last year and found it thoroughly enjoyable, having felt a certain familiarity with the film having watched parodies of so many scenes on shows like The Simpsons and Family Guy. Ahead of my second viewing, I was interested to see how I would find it, as re-watching a film can provide a true indication of a films quality and longevity. I can safely say, on second viewing, The Graduate is a timeless classic; I loved watching it again even more so than the first time, for so many reasons.
Firstly the performance of Dustin Hoffman as Benjamin is, simply put, one of my favourite acting displays of all time. From his mannerisms to the way he holds himself; it’s just a perfect piece of casting (although interestingly, they originally had someone tall and blonde in mind).
His nervousness around Mrs Robinson, the way he conveys a complete lack of direction after graduating, his fear of the future, (something I can relate to myself – less so the affair with an older woman), is just perfectly encapsulated by Hoffman. I can only imagine Rob Steiger, who beat Hoffman for the best actor award at the 1967 Oscars, produced a tour de force of acting for In the Heat of the Night.
The video below is a brief extract from my favourite scene in the movie (the hotel scene where his affair with Mrs Robinson begins) as it’s a perfect example of the wonderful performance Hoffman gives, with subtle nuances such as yawning as he goes up to his room, or his inability to catch the waiters eye to order a drink, really resonating with me.
The supporting cast are excellent as well, with Anne Bancroft superb as the enigmatic Mrs Robinson, (she was actually only 35 at the time, just 6 years older than Hoffman). Meanwhile the beautiful Katherine Ross, playing Mrs Robinson’s daughter Elaine who Benjamin eventually falls in love with, also gives a stunning performance; both were deservedly nominated for Oscars, along with Hoffman.
The incredible soundtrack by Simon and Garfunkel perfectly complements the film and is easily one of my all time favourite soundtracks of any film, as it just sits so nicely with the films’ themes and motivations; though I have heard it said that many people get a little tired of hearing Sounds of Silence, though I could never tire of such a wonderful song.
The primary reason I love The Graduate so much however, is because it’s so ahead of its time, perfectly summed up by this description which claims the film ‘Encapsulates an era on the brink of change’. This sense of truly not knowing what to do with your life is as relevant today as it was back in the 1960s and furthermore, as a coming of age comedy-drama, it portrays this feeling in a way that many modern films have tried, and failed, to do.
It’s also very un-Hollywood, in-so-far as it doesn’t end happily as in so many pictures; in fact the final scene on the bus is one of the most moving and thought provoking moments in cinema, conveyed not through speech but simple facial expressions, with the ambiguity over whether Benjamin has truly found happiness or simply another distraction so he doesn’t have to face his future.
Some may find the film quite slow, the soundtrack a little repetitive; I’ve even heard some people accuse Benjamin Braddock of being an unlikeable lead character, but for me this film is something I can relate to. When I’d finished watching it, like all great films, it stayed with me; I had to do the obligatory Wikipedia check to find everything I possibly could about this film.
I would put The Graduate in my top 10 favourite films of all time and for anyone that has graduated from University; I would say it is essential viewing.
My Rating: 10/10