Wednesday, June 29, 2016

AFI Top 100, #7: "The Graduate" (1967)

Movie Stats:
Released 1967 (USA)
American, in English
Director - Mike Nichols
Stars - Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft, Katharine Ross

Plot Summary:
Recently graduated from college and at loose ends, Ben Braddock (Hoffman) drifts into an affair with an older woman, family friend Mrs. Robinson (Bancroft). Conflict arises when Ben begins to fall for Mrs. Robinson’s daughter, Elaine (Ross).

Very minor blue language; minor violence; heavily implied sexy times; almost-nudity (basically every part of the female breast except for the nipple).

Bad Stuff:
I don’t like the experimental camera work.

I hate the second half. While Ben’s actions make a semblance of sense within the context of the film, he basically turns into a crazy person, and Elaine’s reaction to him isn't believable to me. It’s this really great film that rather suddenly veers into WTF territory.

It’s weird how the soundtrack repeats songs. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Simon & Garfunkel, but I don’t really need to hear “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme” twice in a row (literally twice in a row, plays through once and then starts over again).

Good Stuff:
The first half is incredibly solid. It really captures that feeling of graduating from college and being at a complete loss as to where to go from there. I remember it all too well. It’s really not something that’s addressed enough in society, how aimless a person’s early 20s can feel. I love it when it’s portrayed well in film.

All of the acting is pretty good, but Hoffman and Bancroft in particular knock it out of the park.

The costuming and set design are magnificent.

I absolutely love the final shot of Ben and Elaine on the bus, the expression on each of their faces as they slowly realize exactly what they’ve just done.

The Verdict:
For me, this movie is a tale of two halves. The first half is brilliant, truly a masterpiece. It never occurred to me before how messed up it is, the way that Mrs. Robinson takes advantage of Ben, who’s lost and vulnerable. She’s a predator. I actually found it rather chilling. Then Elaine shows up and both Ben and the movie lose the plot. It’s a huge disappointment. I’m sure others feel differently about it, but I find that it simply doesn’t work. The only good thing about the second half is that final shot, which is such a (good) punch in the gut. I’m not sure what I would have liked better, but I wish they’d done it anyway. This is an iconic film that doesn’t quite live up to expectation.

I give it 3.5 stars.


Patricia said...

I was thinking about this movie the other day and thinking that this (perhaps?) was the film where I finally understood the tassels swinging in opposite directions thing. I had head about it, but I think this was the first (and possibly only) time I've seen an example of that. It was kind of awesome.

I felt very "eh" about this movie when I watched it back in my early 20s. But you're right about the lack of post-college transition movies. I actually have a post-college transition tag on my letterboxd account, just so I can keep track of them.

balyien said...

I remember the first time I saw this, one of the boys I was watching it with laughed and laughed and laughed during the tassel scene. It makes me smile every time I think of it.