The Graduate

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The Graduate (1967)

Directed by Mike Nichols

Based on the novel The Graduate by Charles Webb

Screenplay by Calder Willingham, Buck Henry

Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft, Katharine Ross, Murray Hamilton, William Daniels, Elizabeth Wilson

An overwhelmed college graduate (Hoffman) is looking for direction in life. He’s sidetracked when he finds himself torn an older woman (Bancroft) and her daughter (Ross).

This movie is based on the 1963 novel The Graduate, written by Charles Webb (Hope Springs). The story was adapted by Calder Willingham (One-Eyed Jacks) and Buck Henry (Catch-22). Mike Nichols (Regarding Henry) directed the film. The stars of this one include Dustin Hoffman (Straw Dogs), Anne Bancroft (The Elephant Man), and Katharine Ross (The Stepford Wives). The cast also features Murray Hamilton (Anatomy of a Murder), William Daniels (Reds), and Elizabeth Wilson (The Birds). The Graduate would eventually earn seven Oscar nominations, including Best Picture. It would earn a Best Director win for Nichols.

This is one of the best coming-of-age stories ever told on the big screen. Using Webb’s novel, Willingham and Henry crafted a story that highlights the drama. From the very beginning, the story thrusts the audience into the life of Ben Braddock. From there the story introduces a variety of wonderfully written characters. The script does a nice job of communicating the complex emotions of many of the main characters. Some of the success comes from the great dialogue. Other moments succeed thanks to the time left for the actors to physically express their feelings. This one is a coming-of-age story, but it’s also something more. The story finds ways to explore the questions of adulthood, love, sex, and consequence. There is also a vein of comedy that runs through the story. All of this comes together in an excellently written story that pays off wonderfully. Henry and Willingham were nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay for their script.

The actors took great material and elevated it to the status of a classic film. Dustin Hoffman does an incredible job in this one. His performance has all of the awkward nervousness and insecurity that the story deserves. This is most evident when he is working opposite Anne Bancroft. There’s a unique chemistry between them that creates some of the best moments in the film. Bancroft feels like the perfect choice for Mrs. Robinson. It’s interesting that she wasn’t the first or even second choice to play the part. At the time of casting, there were a number of actresses interested in the role. Luckily Nichols chose Bancroft. Her performance is powerful and emotional. She has a sultry quality that comes and goes throughout the movie, and blends with a sense of sadness that she injects into her performance.

Katharine Ross also does a great job with her role in this movie. She has an innocent quality that really fits into the story. She also succeeds with her more intense emotional scenes. Hoffman and Ross have great chemistry in this one. There isn’t a bad performance from anyone in the film. Murray Hamilton, William Daniels, and Elizabeth Wilson all do great work. Hamilton has some especially great moments throughout this film. Overall, the acting does all the right things with the excellent script. Their work earned a lot of recognition including Oscar nominations. Hoffman was nominated for Best Actor, Bancroft for Best Actress, and Ross for Best Supporting Actress.

The cinematography of The Graduate is something special, thanks to Robert Surtees (The Sting). He does an incredible job creating some incredible visuals. Some of the best moments come when he creates a kind of visual claustrophobia that highlights the emotions of the characters. There is a lot to like about his decisions on camera placement and his use of zoom lenses. All of his effort earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Cinematography. The editing work also deserves a lot of credit for the success of this film. Sam O’Steen (Chinatown) kept this one moving at a great pace. He also pulls off some great match cuts throughout the movie. Add in solid set design, costuming, and location choices; and you have a really good-looking film.

The sound work also does all the right things. This film is forever linked with the music of Simon and Garfunkel. “Mrs. Robinson” became a hit single and launched this soundtrack to #1. In addition to their work, the film also features original music from Dave Grusin (Tootsie). Altogether, this film has some great music that adds to the classic status of this movie.

This movie has been quoted, parodied, and studied for the last five decades. Today the film still feels relevant. It’s a fun movie that also finds sadness, romance, and honesty throughout. If you’re a fan of the stars you need to see this. If it’s been a while, take the time to revisit this one. I give this one 5 out of 5 stars.

Rating: PG

Running Time: 106 Minutes

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