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The Graduate (Special Edition) (1992)

1 rating: 5.0
Comedy and Drama movie directed by Mike Nichols

Few films have defined a generation as The Graduate did. The alienation, the nonconformity, the intergenerational romance, the blissful Simon and Garfunkel soundtrack--they all served to lob a cultural grenade smack into the middle of 1967 America, ultimately … see full wiki

Director: Mike Nichols
Genre: Comedy, Drama
1 review about The Graduate (Special Edition) (1992)

Transcending "Plastic"...Perhaps

  • Jul 12, 2003
As I think about this film, I am again struck by the fact that films never change, only we do over a period of time (in this instance decades) from the first time we see a film until we most recently see it again. I admire this film as much now as I did in 1967 but for different reasons. Much younger then, of course, I was totally sympathetic with Benjamin (Dustin Hoffman) and drew parallels between him and Salinger's Holden Caulfield. Today, I really do not identify with any character in the film even as I appreciate more than before the multi-dimensional social commentary which Mike Nichols makes on that era. In a word, "plastic." I consider it both significant and revealing that neither Benjamin's parents nor Elaine Robinson's parents are given first names. Elaine is perfectly portrayed by Katherine Ross, in stunning contrast to Brenda Patimkin played by Ali MacGraw two years later in Goodbye, Columbus. Nichols also integrates seamlessly the script co-authored by Calder Willingham and Buck Henry with the music score (Simon and Garfunkel) and Robert Surtees' cinematography. Also, he selected and coordinated brief but brilliant appearances by Norman Fell (Mr. McLeeiry), Alice Ghostley (Mrs. Singleton), Marion Lorne of "Mr. Peepers" fame (Miss DeWitt), and Henry (Hotel Clerk). I even spotted Richard Dreyfuss among the hotel guests. Nichols' brilliant work in his film earned for him an Academy Award as best director.

The comic moments are memorable (some indelible) but the humor is essentially bittersweet, as is the humor Nichols created with his former associate Elaine May. How easy to overlook the fact that the film portrays adultery, a relationship which betrays so many others. Also, that the predatory Mrs. Robinson's need for sexual gratification exploits so callously Benjamin's vulnerability as he struggles to decide what to do with his life after graduation from college. For me, the film's title is ironic because, even with his diploma in hand, Benjamin must complete other rites of passage and almost (not quite) loses the decent and uncorrupted young woman he truly loves. As the film ends, he and Elaine sit together at the back of a public bus, staring ahead without apparent emotion at a future which, for them, is assuredly uncertain. Once again, Benjamin must address a question posed earlier, "Now what?"

It remains for cultural anthropologists to comment on this film's sociological significance. As indicated previously, I think so highly of this film because Nichols has brilliantly combined and integrated just about everything a great film requires: a compelling story, great acting and cinematography, memorable (and appropriate) music, and effective use of humor. Many people believe that this film offers a "window" to upper-middle class suburban America in the 1960s. Probably it does. But I think it will also continue to be appreciated because it examines certain themes which have defined human experience for several thousand years: the struggle for wisdom, the sometimes necessary loss of innocence, and the transcending power of the human heart.

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