‘The Graduate’ (1967) directed by Mike Nichols; boy meets older woman who knows exactly what she wants, then boy falls in love with woman’s daughter who does not have any idea what she wants.
This loss of innocence tale has three very distinct chapters focusing on the journey of Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman).
Just graduated from college, Ben does not have any idea about what the future will hold; he is not a social animal at all. His awkwardness and lack of self-confidence are conveyed in multiple ways in the first part; he always lets out an audible ‘sad puppy’ sigh when he is about to meet Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft), he is visibly sweating, completely lost, looking stupid, ‘inadequate’. Inadequate being the word that triggers his physical relation with this older woman (always addressed as ‘Mrs. Robinson’).
The second chapter sees confident Ben and is filled with visual metaphors; we never saw Ben’s body at any point during the previous chapter and as soon as ‘it is done’ we see him sunbathing in the pool, visibly confident and we follow him in a dream like state.
The last chapter sees him leave Mrs. Robinson’s physical relationship behind and focus on her daughter Elaine (Katharine Ross).
Ben’s emotions are portrayed with various cinematic gimmicks; stroboscopic images when he sees her naked body for the first time, POV camera when he is in his own world (diving gear scene), sequence shots…
Smart use of mirrors as well as deep focus to have both Ben and Mrs Robinson in the same frame. Clever transitions too (Ben goes from swimming to the floating mattress to Mrs Robinson’s body in one single fluid cinematic movement.).
The score is an integral part of the story-telling here; Simon & Garfunkel’s Sound of Silence is always there when Ben is in lonely mode, ‘Mrs. Robinson’ (which is now an iconic song precisely thanks to its use in that film) when he his with her, even ‘Scarborough Fair’ when he is going after Elaine.
The quotability factor is very high and some scenes achieved cult status; the ‘wedding crasher’ ending scene became a no-brainer for any romantic-comedy, you have seen ersatz of it for sure, and should try the original.
Nichols was critically acclaimed for his movie, even winning the 1968 Best Director Academy Award.
Hoffman’s portrayal was highly regarded and his career skyrocketed right away.
6* Highly recommended.