Sunday, February 22, 2015

Oscar Movie Review: "The Graduate" (1967)

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Movie"The Graduate"
Year Nominated: 1968
Director: Mike Nichols
Rating: PG
Running Time: 1 hour, 46 minutes
Did It Win?: No.

Recent college graduate Ben Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) is seduced and begins a love affair with a married friend of his mother's, Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft). Their affair lasts for a few months, but Ben is growing tired of their simple sexual encounters and wishes for a deeper relationship. When Ben's parents set him up on a date with Mrs. Robinson's daughter Elaine (Katharine Ross), Mrs. Robinson forbids Ben from seeing her. Ben disobeys his former lover and quickly falls for Elaine. When Elaine finds out he was once her mother's lover, however, she breaks up with him. Wanting to spend his life with Elaine, Ben follows her to Berkeley determined to win her back. 
Here's to you, Mrs. Robinson! This film is an offbeat, atypical romantic comedy, even though Dustin Hoffman's Ben can be a real creep sometimes. You know, it's the typical "boy meets mother's married friend and then meets and falls for mother's married friend's daughter causing massive turmoil in the family" movie we all know and love. That old hat! It is also a coming of age film in that Ben is at a crossroads in his life. He just graduated from college and is unsure about what he wants to do with his future. Really, a huge reason why this film works as well as it does is because of Dustin Hoffman. His character is so awkward and so uncomfortable in his own skin, and Hoffman portrays this role with such a resounding conviction. You can feel how uneasy Ben is when Mrs. Robinson is initially coming on to him, as well as how unsure he is when they have their first sexual encounter. It starts off as both really sad and extremely pathetic, and these situations are also sort of hysterical and make for some good laughs. We both felt a huge sense of second-hand embarrassment for Ben since his attempts at being loose and comfortable just come off as dorky and inexperienced. Anne Bancroft is also excellent in this film as the sexually aggressive and much older Mrs. Robinson, who is both very domineering over her younger lover and quite pathetic and sad in many other ways all on her own. Struggling in a loveless marriage, she beings an affair with the younger son of her friend, Ben's mother, but expects him to be her slave and is repulsed at the thought of him dating her daughter Elaine. After their tryst ends, Ben's parents suggest that he take out Elaine, and to get them off his back, he does. When Ben first takes Elaine out, he is a complete jerk to her having been "hardened" by Mrs. Robinson and by his life, which is not so bad at all. After a short while, he is smitten with Elaine, but his secret about her mother threatens to ruin whatever relationship they may end up having.

Beyond the great acting and story, the directing, cinematography and camerawork in this film are amazing and seamless. Mike Nichols and his film making crew use so many different and unique shots executed with the utmost precision and flawlessness. The shot of Dustin Hoffman through Anne Bancroft's leg has become an iconic and memorable scene mimicked many times throughout cinematic history. Another shot that is quite remarkable is the scuba mask shot before, during and after a contemplative Ben sits at the bottom of his pool wondering what to make of his life. This camera work elevates the film from just another dramatic comedy to one that has been and will continue to be remembered for both its daring story and its incredible cinematography. All in all, this is a fabulous film with a memorable soundtrack, a fantastic ending and a great watch every now and then.

My Rating: 9/10
BigJ's Rating: 9/10
IMDB's Rating: 8.1/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 88%
Do we recommend this movie: ABSOLUTELY YES!!!

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