The Graduate Review
By: Gabrielle Napier
Work hard, graduate college, get a job, get married, and start a family is the typical chain of events for a man in the upper class. Such is not the case in 1967’s newest film The Graduate. Ben Braddock, played by Dustin Hoffman, returns to his especially over-the-top home life post graduation and feels lost. Worrying about his future, Ben gets knocked off the path without a plan in sight. An easily relatable story for any college graduate, the film captures its audience’s attention with humorous moments that will no doubt establish director Mike Nichols as a leading filmmaker in this New Hollywood era. As the intriguing relationship between Ben and family friend Mrs. Robinson, played by Anne Bancroft, unfolds before the public’s eyes, one cannot help but enjoy every painfully awkward silence.
Ben’s story unravels as his desire to be alone increases. After donning a Scuba suit on his birthday and finally finding some peace at the bottom of his family’s pool, Ben decides he must find something of substance to fill his time. Mrs. Robinson jumps at the chance to have an affair with Ben, as it was her idea originally when she had tried to seduce him earlier that month. Sneaking out for almost twelve hours a night to be with his mistress, Ben continues to avoid seeking a plan for his future, much to the dismay of his worrisome parents. Thinking it would be of benefit, Ben’s parents persuade him to take the daughter of the Robinson family, against the wishes of Mrs. Robinson. The date has a rocky start, but by the end, both Ben and Elaine Robinson, played by Katharine Ross, knew there was a spark. The relationship between Ben and Elaine set off a series of events when Ben realizes he is in love with Elaine, who is hidden from Ben who had followed her to school. Eventually Ben finds Elaine at her wedding, and in a turn of events, the audience is captured during the final minutes of the film.
Accompanied by music from Simon and Garfunkel, the “Sound of Silence” is the impeccable anthem of this film. Ben’s gawky conversational skills and graceless bumbling through summer imply to the audience that he was all work and no play through college. It expresses a lack of intimacy that he craves deep inside. This is shown in a scene during which Ben asks Mrs. Robinson for conversation during one of their secret meetings. He is constantly questioning her past and her relationship with her husband, which presents his need to feel included.
It is so obvious to see why The Graduate has become a classic film and a staple in the New Hollywood era. Director Mike Nichols understands the unforgiving balance between the seriousness of a college graduate’s future and the humor in what can happen when the graduate forces himself to forget, even for a short time, if there even is a future. This film takes its audience on an emotional roller coaster with unexpected turns, including a visit to a strip club. From secret telephone calls to a shady desk clerk, this film will keep a smile on your face until the ending credits roll.