Directed by Mike Nichols. Starring Anne Bancroft, Dustin Hoffman, Katharine Ross, William Daniels, Elizabeth Wilson, Murray Hamilton, Walter Brooke, Norman Fell. (1967, NR, 105 min.)
REVIEWED By Alison Macor, Fri., March 28, 1997
By December of 1967 when director Mike Nichols' sophomore effort The Graduate opened in theatres, a number of American films such as Bonnie and Clyde, Cool Hand Luke, and In Cold Blood already had created a stir that year with audiences and critics alike. As the New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther and others were noting in the early and mid-1960s, Hollywood had reached a stagnant period and most of the interesting films were being imported from abroad. But with 20-year-old Benjamin Braddock's (Hoffman) plaintive whine about his future (“I want it to be different”) came a film about the loss of innocence, the narcotizing effects of the Establishment, and hotel sex that spoke to a younger generation of movie viewers who knew that Mr. Robinson (Hamilton) was wrong, and 20 going on 21 was not necessarily “a helluva good age to be.” Thirty years later, Strand Releasing is banking on the fact that a new generation of viewers will relate to Benjamin's situation, and the distributor is commemorating The Graduate's anniversary with a newly struck 35mm print of the film. As Crowther wrote of the film (based on Charles Webb's novel), the storyline may sound simple, but the film is so much more. When Benjamin returns home from college, he is unsure of what to do next, so, instead of making any kind of career decision, he begins a sexual liaison with the attractive wife of his father's partner, the lonely and complex Mrs. Robinson (Bancroft). Their affair progresses through the hot California summer until family pressures force Ben to ask out the Robinsons' daughter Elaine (Ross). Despite all attempts to ruin the evening, Ben finds something of a kindred spirit in Elaine, prompting him to ask her out again. When the spurned Mrs. Robinson learns of his transgression, she sets off a chain of events that propel -- no, hurtle -- Ben toward his future. To paraphrase a line from another famous film, what do you say about a movie that has everything? Hoffman and Bancroft are phenomenally cast in a script co-written by Buck Henry and Calder Willingham that is by turns sly, touching, and amazingly fresh 30 years later. As Benjamin, Hoffman stutters and whimpers his lines from beginning to end, redefining the notion of character development. In addition to pulling off the nearly impossible task of making us hate, pity, but also identify with Mrs. Robinson, Bancroft does for leopard-print undergarments what Marilyn Monroe did for white halter-top dresses. Cinematographer Robert Surtees and Nichols collaborate on an impressive array of camera setups that, coupled with the film having been shot in Panavision and Technicolor, fully exploit the wide screen for dramatic effect. Editor Sam O'Steen's match-action cuts add an irony to the film that is equaled only by its soundtrack by Paul Simon & Art Garfunkel. Given all of these accolades, The Graduate's only worry upon its 30th anniversary re-release should be, will it still play in Peoria?