Friday, 5 June 2015

"The Graduate," Mike Nichols, Film Review

"The Graduate," Mike Nichols, Film Review

A series of film reviews where I give my comments on IMDB Top 250 films as a writer.  The idea is that over time these posts will build into a wide-ranging writing resource.

For more details about the approach I've taken, including some important points about its strengths and weaknesses (I make no claims about my abilities as a film critic or even the accuracy of my comments... but I do stand by the value of a writer's notes on interesting films), see my introductory post here.


Snappy and funky – everyone and everything looks cool and even manages to make Simon and Garfunkel sound edgy and caper-y.

Good story and all the interest is in the affair with Mrs Robinson.  Interesting that the film is not titled 'Mrs Robinson'.

The choice of 'The Graduate' points to the theme of existential angst that Dustin Hoffman's character feels following a glorious school career and graduation.  He is shy and doesn’t know what he wants to do... Nicely summed up by the repeated image of him gloating aimlessly on a floater in his parents' pool.  

* His father's associate tries to tempt him – 'One word.  "Plastics."'  It doesn't tempt him.

Hoffman anticipates a bit of his Rain Man autistic act in the first half of the film.

Much of the pleasure comes from Mrs Robinson's eager predatory behaviour 

*  Her directness and her calm assurance.  'Waiter,' she says coolly when Hoffman fails to attract their attention. 
*  Her husband is also good.  'I was just telling Ben that he needs to spread some wild oats.  Do you agree?'  Mrs R. 'Yes.'

Less satisfactory are some unrealistic notes.
* He is supposed to be a big athletic, successful scholar and skillful debater ... yet it takes Mrs R. to liberate him and she is his first time with a woman
* The twists and turns with Mrs R's daughter are much less convincing, including the wedding heist at the end

Some themes echo with Biff and Willy's situation in Death of a Salesman.  The young man unable to negotiate a satisfactory compromise between his own desires and society's desires / demands.

Overall, it's pacey, bold, confident.  It looks and sounds great and there are some top performances, especially from Hoffman and Anne Bancroft as Mrs Robinson.

Personal Score:  8/10

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