For purposes more practical and less greedy than those above, I've also added links to make it easier to subscribe to this blog, as well as to share it with your friends. In the sidebar on the right, you'll find ways to subscribe to posts and/or comments through the blog reader of your choice, or you can submit your email address to receive each post by email. Plus, at the bottom of each post, there is now a row of lovely social networking buttons.
Whew! With that administration out of the way, let's get to the next review, a classic Best Picture nominee from 1967...
Calder Willingham and Buck Henry
(based on the novel by Charles Webb)
Anne Bancroft, Dustin Hoffman, Katharine Ross, William Daniels, Murray Hamilton, Elizabeth Wilson
1 win, for Best Director
The graduate of the title is Benjamin Braddock (Hoffman), recently returned from college without a clue as to what to do with his life. His parents (Daniels & Wilson) are throwing him a graduation party and all their friends have suggestions for his future. One word: plastics. One of his parents' friends, Mrs. Robinson (Bancfroft), has a more deviant idea. She persuades Benjamin to drive her home after the party and, once inside, proceeds to seduce him. A flustered Benjamin rejects her advances but, several days (or perhaps weeks) later, his boredom and loneliness and curiosity get the better of him and he calls Mrs. Robinson to take her up on her sordid offer.
The two begin a secret affair. Soon, however, Benjamin is unsatisfied with the purely physical nature of their relationship and wants to have an actual conversation with Mrs. Robinson. That turns out to be not such a good idea, after all. Their conversation quickly turns into an argument when Mrs. Robinson gets rather agitated at the idea of Benjamin taking out her daughter, Elaine (Ross), a thought that had never crossed his mind until she made him promise not to do it. Naturally, when Elaine visits during a college break, Benjamin's parents pressure him into asking her out and he reluctantly obliges. Benjamin's idea of sabotaging the date by taking Elaine to a strip club fails miserably and he finds himself in the extremely complicated situation of falling in love with his lover's daughter.
The Graduate is undeniably a product of the 1960s. The groovy decor and fashion, the hippie music from Simon & Garfunkel, even the prolific use of the zoom lens. In fact, in his sophomore film as director, Mike Nichols - who had made Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? only one year earlier - makes good use of his camera, presenting us with some uniquely artistic visuals. Sometimes, we see characters through their reflections on a coffee table. Other times, we see characters talking but are unable to hear their words due to loud music or crowds. We feel Benjamin's isolation through a POV shot as he scuba dives into a backyard swimming pool. We feel his confinement through the now very famous shot of his body literally trapped in the frame by Mrs. Robinson's leg. Then, there is the rapid-fire series of brief shots when Mrs. Robinson presents her naked self to Benjamin, a sequence oddly reminiscent of the shower scene in Hitchcock's Psycho.
Clearly, The Graduate was written as a comedy. But what's interesting is that, despite the genuinely funny script, Nichols and the cast don't overplay it. Quite an achievement since there are some very jokey jokes in there, which would be just as at home in a Marx Brothers movie. Dustin Hoffman remains deadpan when given just one strange word of advice, "plastics". Nor does he mug when inadvertently uttering a sexual pun, "wood". And he is very much sincere when suggesting his plan of marrying Elaine is "completely baked".
As mentioned, rising star Dustin Hoffman carries the film with understated perfection, earning his first Oscar nomination. Remaining subtle in the face of farcical elements seems to work well for him (see Tootsie). Anne Bancroft, also nominated, succeeds as the nonchalant cougar. (Iinterestingly, she was only six years older than Hoffman.) The film's third nominee, Katharine Ross, is movingly gentle. Also of note are William Daniels as Benjamin's well-intentioned father and Murray Hamilton (last seen here in Jaws) as the cuckolded Mr. Robinson. Finally, two bit part players have gone on to bigger and better things. Mike Farrell, famous for M*A*S*H, appears very briefly as a bellhop. And also from Jaws - amongst many, many other things - that's Richard Dreyfuss as the boarding house resident eager to call the cops.
Support Matt vs. the Academy and buy:
The Graduate on DVD
The Graduate on Blu-ray
The Graduate on Instant Video