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The Graduate (1967)

May 17, 2010

8/10 Original Cougars

The anthem for all us of out there just floating around in life.

The Graduate is about a recent college grad with no idea of what he wants to do with his life, a complete disconnect with everyone around him who seems to know exactly what he should be doing with his life and a much older friend of his parents who’s hellbent on getting him in the sack despite her being married. Lo and behold, she gets her way and life is still pretty blah for our little Benjy Braddock, but then this lady’s daughter shows up on the scene, Ben takes her out on a date, realizes that she’s the only thing in his life that actually matters, and that’s when things get awkward.

This is one of those movies that’s been placed on a cultural pedestal of epic proportions, from “Mrs. Robinson” to the final Act of Wayne’s World 2, it’s become a cinematic legend of sorts that I feel more people know about than have actually seen. Maybe I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, but the general reaction I hear from folks who finally get around to actually watching this tends to fall somewhere in the area of  “History was right! That was effing great!

And rightly so, because it really is that effing great and has totally stood the test of time.

That’s because The Graduate is universal. Regardless of age, gender, education or generation, I’m pretty sure everyone comes a crossroads in their life where they just don’t know what to do with themselves and might even be pretty content with it. It might come in the form of a mid-life crisis, maybe it’s been there all along, but for our boy Ben, it came right around the same time it came for me, right after getting his college diploma.

Ben’s not so much the voice of a generation, because I’m pretty sure these kinds of mood swings aren’t gonna be fading out any time soon, but rather the poster boy for disenchantment with life. He’s nervous as sin, he’s green behind the ears in nearly every single way, everything he does is prompted by someone else telling him to do it and by the time he does find that one thing in life he actually does want, that he actually does connect with, it ends up being the one thing he can’t have.

Sounds familiar? That’s what I thought.

As good as Anne Bancroft is as Mrs. Robinson and as much as I love a Simon and Garfunkel soundtrack as the next guy, The Graduate‘s all about Ben for me and this funny, insightful script along with Dustin Hoffman being the man brings him real close to home. It’s great to watch him go from this pushover and professional hanger-outer to someone insanely passionate that will stop at nothing to steal away Elaine Robinson.

And honestly, didn’t we all absolutely hate being asked by everyone what we were going to do after college? Jesus H. Murphy did that wear out fast. I’m all about having direction in life, but who out there always knows exactly what they’re gonna do next? These are the kinds of things we’ve gotta figure out for ourselves, folks, and who the hell wants to work in plastics anyway?

It’s also a really well-made movie by Mike Nichols that’s just beautifully shot, moves along at a great pace and serves as a crash course in Great Editing 101.

But here’s the thing…

If I had written this review four years ago when I had first seen it as a college undergrad, clueless as to what the hell I was gonna do with my life, too busy perfecting the art of funneling beer to even think about graduation and feeling like Ben Braddock was the walking, talking voice of Aiden that was written up just for me, I would probably have given this a 9 or even a 10. But now, with a real job in the real world with my own real cubicle, hardly able to finish a six pack without feeling like a beached whale and doing my best to turn a hobby into a career, it’s at an 8, and I’m alright with that even if I wasn’t expecting it.

Don’t get me wrong, The Graduate is a phenomenal movie that lives up to all the hype it’s garnered over the course of 40 years and spoke to me in a way that movies rarely do, but just as I’ve changed since college, so has my connection to Ben. It’s the same with The Catcher in the Rye – first time I read it as a High School Sophomore, I thought Holden was a bum, read it again four years later and I thought he was the man. Strange how that happens.

From a technical standpoint, this is always going to be out of sight and so will the cast, but it’s a movie worth revisiting at different points in your life because life is what it’s about and I don’t think any of us are the same person we were four years ago.

And how about Mr. Feeney as Ben’s dad? Awesome.

27 Comments leave one →
  1. May 17, 2010 3:43 am

    I think you’re on to something – I think that some movies are just better at certain stages of your life. It leads to a bit of a bummer when you go back to rewatch them and the magic’s gone, but I think they still manage to hold a special place in your heart.

  2. May 17, 2010 7:11 am

    The film is a true classic that holds up very well in today’s world, and how could you not want a Simon and Garfunkel album after this movie! Great soundtrack, great movie, great review!

  3. May 17, 2010 7:58 am

    As you say – a phenomenal movie. The only thing I’d disagree with is the scoring of 8 rather than 10. You’re right about films working better at certain stages in your life but some films will not change no matter who you are or what you’re doing. For me, The Graduate is one of those films. Its universal coming-of-age tale can be for the teenager in school, the twenty-something in college, or the thirty-something contemplating marriage/kids/mortgages. I hope that sense of spontaneity and optimism for the future that the film portrays remains for me no matter how old I am. I put it number one on my top 10 Dustin Hoffman films list:

  4. May 17, 2010 9:20 am

    I’ve always felt that this film is the greatest example of direction and editing, that is until I saw “All That Jazz”

  5. May 17, 2010 10:47 am

    you sound like a 50-year-old! 😉

  6. May 17, 2010 1:55 pm

    I’m going to be a biatch and state that I was quite unimpressed with this film. I mean it’s a good movie but I don’t think it aged all that well and doesn’t warrant all the love it’s getting. Lazy dude sleeps with the mother and then take the girlfriend to some weird date and they are in “love”? Come on now…

    • May 17, 2010 5:29 pm

      There are two types of people in this world: Gladiator people and Graduate people.

    • May 18, 2010 10:24 am

      i’d have to agree. as much as i love the movie, i always thought it was weird that all of a sudden, ‘they’re in love’. i just always excused it by thinking that it probably had something to do with playing in the 60’s 😉

      • May 18, 2010 10:27 am

        Yeah, that was a pretty quick change of heart there. I guess one date went a long way back then.

      • May 18, 2010 2:39 pm

        I think it’s more infatuation then anything.

    • May 20, 2010 11:51 pm

      It may not make sense, but as Aiden so perfectly stated, “The Graduate” is a movie about life. Does life always make sense? Mine sure doesn’t. We don’t know what to feel half the time; we rush into things and move sluggishly to others.

  7. May 18, 2010 8:34 am

    Still have yet to see this, want to so badly though…

  8. Max permalink
    May 18, 2010 2:55 pm

    Maybe I’m really off the deep end (without snorkeling gear) with this one, but I really appreciated the social commentary with this movie. Keeping in mind that the movie was made in 1967, I found it interesting that Ben (a young man as a the face of a nation of young people) had no direction or purpose at home but found meaning by following his dream across the San Francisco Bridge in the the bay area. San Francisco, specifically Berkley, was a social epicenter for young people in the late 60s, many of whom traveled to the West Coast in search for their version of “meaning”. Coupled with the editing that Aiden correctly described as “out of sight”, the movie really strikes a chord with those who had more of an avant-garde outlook than their parents of the previous generations.

    • May 18, 2010 3:23 pm

      Haha, I actually think you’re dead on, man, especially in regards to your last sentence. I wish I had paid more attention in Modern History class, but from the little I’m familiar with, that seems like a pretty astute observation about the mindset of all the Ben Braddocks in the ’60s that’s still hanging around today.

      Glad to have you back commenting, Max. You’re a veteran in these parts after all.

  9. May 19, 2010 10:19 pm

    This is one of my favorites and it always strikes me when I rewatch it how it is both simultaneously hilarious and devastating.

    I totally agree about how how universal the film is. A lot of people say this film is dated but I totally disagree.

  10. May 20, 2010 11:49 pm

    HOLY CRAP! How did I not know that was Mr. Feeny!?!?

    I’m such a huge “Boy Meets World” fan and I’m so disappointed in myself for not seeing that…

    • May 21, 2010 8:40 am

      Hahaha, all the more reason to give it another watch. Can’t believe you’re the only person who commented on that. Not enough BMW fans in the house.

  11. Pablo Chiste permalink
    May 24, 2010 2:33 pm

    Really? Really? This gets the same rating as MacGruber? Get out of that cubicle, sir, embrace life. The Graduate is an example of movies at their best.

    • May 24, 2010 2:43 pm

      Sweet sassy molassy, man. I can’t win with you today.

      First, MacGruber and Graduate are two entirely different movies. Apples and oranges, Pablo.

      Second, 8 is just where I’m at with this movie now. Was a 9 or a 10 the first time I saw it, chances are it will be again down the road.


  12. Pablo Chiste permalink
    May 24, 2010 2:55 pm

    To me The Graduate is the dictonary definition of a ten. Makes me laugh and puts a tear in my eye. And if you want to talk about fruit The Graduate is juicy and sweet. An orange you’ll talk about for years. While MacGruber’s an apple with mold all over it.
    If it makes you feel any better I thought your reviews on The SecretIn Their Eyes and House of Cards were spot on.

  13. Surreal permalink
    December 19, 2011 4:56 pm

    Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, so that’s fair enough what you all have to say in praise about this movie.
    I however cannot understand why people think this film is so great – and this is coming from someone who has seen a good deal of artsy ‘thinking’ type movies and enjoyed them immensely. ‘The Graduate’ has sooooooo many really slow scenes that just make you want to pull out your hair in boredom (even the Simon and Garfunkel music isn’t enough to make it bearable).
    I also find it very strange how quickly Ben and Elaine fall in love – I believe in love at first sight sure, but this just was NOT portrayed very well on-screen :S It was more awkward and disjointed if you ask me.
    Finally, I thought that Dustin Hoffman’s acting skills were absolutely TERRIBLE! What was with the constant repetitions of ‘Mrs Robinson’, over and over again – several times I thought I was watching ‘Rainman’ instead! Got very annoying very quickly. He was seriously acting as though he had a mental condition.
    Overall, an OKAY flick, but definitely not more than that :S I really must be missing something.

    • December 21, 2011 10:56 am

      Haha. I don’t think you’re missing anything, The Graduate is just a very subjective movie that brings about a different response when you see it at different points in your life (at least that’s been my impression.) And I love Hoffman, so I don’t know where you’re going with that one (as funny as the Rainman comment is,) but like you said, everyone’s entitled to their opinion.

      Give it another go in a few years, might just come out with a new opinion of it. Thanks for stopping by!

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