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  Graduate, The The Future That You've Got Mapped Out Is Nothing Much To Shout About
Year: 1967
Director: Mike Nichols
Stars: Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft, Katharine Ross, William Daniels, Murray Hamilton, Elizabeth Wilson, Buck Henry, Brian Avery, Walter Brooke, Norman Fell, Alice Ghostley, Marion Lorne, Eddra Gale, Richard Dreyfuss, Mike Farrell
Genre: Comedy, Drama, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  8 (from 4 votes)
Review: Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) is a little worried about his future. He has just graduated from college, and now he is back home he wonders what he can possibly do with his life because the business world his parents and his parents' friends expect him to enter into holds very little allure for him. So what can he possibly do? Instead of facing up to his problems, he backpedals furiously to stay still, but when Mrs Robinson (Anne Bancroft) asks him to drive her home from a gathering his parents are holding, he has no idea what he is getting himself into...

Arriving when half the films coming out of Hollywood were about to exhibit a rebellious streak, The Graduate perfectly captured a time when the world of the older generation was beginning to look less appetising to the younger, and for some, not something they wanted any part of. For them, their hero would be Benjamin, with Hoffman an instant succcess as he displayed the talent that carried him through a stellar career which lasted decades. Benjamin starts off awkward and ill-fitting in this society, then finds a purpose when Mrs Robinson seduces him.

But is she the film's villain? It's true that anyone over forty in The Graduate appears to be victimising Benjamin, or at the very least pushing him in directions he is reluctant to go in, a theme which has come across as somewhat simplisitic to the film's critics, but what they forget is that the story is taken solely from his point of view, so of course he feels that they don't have his best interests at heart and merely wish him to join their scene with no questions asked. They expect him to get his qualifications, find a nice girl and settle down with a well-paid job, exactly like they have done, but Benjamin cannot feel comfortable with that set up.

We understand Mrs Robinson's frustrations with that life, however, as brought out in one scene where Benjamin does not wish to leap into bed for once and craves a human connection other than sex. We find out that she was a graduate herself once, but she threw away her future when she got pregnant and had to be married, so she is not entirely unsympathetic. However, with Bancroft's riveting, ice cool delivery, you can see why she exemplifies the initimidating aspects of everything Benjamin feels he should get away from. Those early scenes are superb examples of the comedy of embarassment, with Hoffman and Bancroft performing them brilliantly.

But then the gags dry up. This is because director Mike Nichols, who is almost stylised in some sequences, makes us realise that Benjamin is becoming not so nice a guy, in fact his emotional inertia has made him something of a jerk. He is forced into taking out Mrs Robinson's daughter Elaine (Katharine Ross) and treats her as if she were something he found on the sole of his shoe, until her tears snap him back to humanity. From then on, he has a purpose, and that is to marry Elaine, but understandably when she finds out the relationship he has been carrying on with her mother, she is not best pleased, and once again his future is in doubt. Accompanied by a groundbreaking use of pop songs on the soundtrack courtesy of Simon and Garfunkel, The Graduate ends up being the very epitome of bittersweet, and the famous ending, which should be swooningly romantic, is brought up short by closing on one of the greatest ever "So what happens next?" final shots.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Mike Nichols  (1931 - 2014)

German-born director in America who was part of a successful comedy act with Elaine May. He then turned to theatre and film, directing sharply observed dramas and comedies like Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, The Graduate, Catch-22 and the controversial Carnal Knowledge.

After the flop Day of the Dolphin, his output became patchier, but The Fortune, Silkwood, Biloxi Blues, Working Girl, Postcards from the Edge, Wolf and Charlie Wilson's War all have their merits. On television, he directed the award-winning miniseries Angels in America.

 
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