the fresh films reviews

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The Graduate (1967)

Mike Nichols




106 minutes

Lawrence Turman

Screenwriters (based on the novel by Charles Webb):
Calder Willingham
Buck Henry

Cast includes:

Mrs. Robinson Anne Bancroft ½
Ben Braddock Dustin Hoffman
Elaine Robinson Katharine Ross
Mr. Braddock William Daniels
Mr. Robinson Murray Hamilton
Mrs. Braddock Elizabeth Wilson
Room Clerk Buck Henry -
Berkeley Student Richard Dreyfuss -



When The Graduate was released in 1967, it not only gave a new generation of 20-somethings a voice for the first time, but it also effectively introduced a new subgenre of moviemaking, a precursor to what the indie-genre is largely about today. Mike Nichols, fresh of his success with Virginia Woolf, was on top of his game here. His gutsy directorial style was an antithesis to certain established filmmaking rules, for instance the circumstantial narrative style of the opening, the lead character's anti-masculinity and indecisiveness, and the seminal use of music. These aspects made the film resonate enormously with the younger generation. And since this was in the run-up to the sexual revolution, the film's in many ways controversial and conflicting sexual themes were seen as liberating rather than antithetical or implausible.

Viewing The Graduate in retrospect more than half a century after its release, all of these qualities and hallmarks are still apparent, but a few narrative bumps in the road have become clearer and the film's final third – which is so strongly dependant on Benjamin's wooing of Elaine – comes off as more of a plot mechanism than it arguably did back in the day. It's not that Elaine and her actions aren't believable per se; she has her own rebellion which fits in with Benjamin's newfound determination. But some of steps Nichols takes to lead them to their goal are choppier and – for lack of a better word – comes off as somewhat dated.

These are details that may pull The Graduate down from its pedestal as Nichols magnum opus. That being said, the film is first and foremost a time capsule and a document from its own time, in everything from generation gaps and youth culture to the art of seduction, and deserves the right to been seen and assessed as such. Dustin Hoffman's performance was groundbreaking in several ways. It was his first starring role, and it definitely made him a star. And when he and Anne Bancroft play off of each other, it's almost impossible to discern that they were almost the same age in real life. The culture gap between them is uncomfortably palpable. With Katharine Ross as Elaine and a fun Murray Hamilton as something of a comic relief as the father. Nichols' use of Simon & Garfunkel's music elevates the film's effect – and then elevated the duo from stars to superstars.

Re-reviewed: Copyright © 10.02.2022 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang
Original review: Copyright © 17.03.1997 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang