Mike Nichols Captures the Reality of Emotions Post-Grad in The Graduate

Mike Nichols, a director seeking to prove himself, did just that.  Ben Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) is a recent graduate with much talent and promise.  He is every parent’s dream son: a scholar in college and a star athlete.  He loses his way the summer after he leaves school, however.  Day after day, he wastes his time laying out by the pool, staring mindlessly at the television, or sleeping with his parent’s family friend, Mrs. Robinson (the stunning Anne Bancroft).Screen Shot 2016-10-30 at 12.31.12 PM.png

Mrs. Robinson, a beautiful middle-aged wife of an important businessman she was forced to marry after getting pregnant, is just as lost as Ben is.  She has no purpose in life other than to entertain her husband and his rich business associates.  Out of pure boredom and perhaps a last-minute attempt at feeling youthful again, she seduces Ben.  Her cougar-esque character is played up with her opulent animal-print clothing, perfected hair and eyelashes, and overall cat-like movements and gestures.Screen Shot 2016-10-30 at 12.31.38 PM.png

The plot thickens when Mrs. Robinson’s innocent daughter, Elaine (Katherine Ross), returns home from college.  Ben automatically falls in love with her, even though her mother forbids him from taking her out on a date by her mother.  From that moment on, Mrs. Robinson turns into a jealous and spiteful temptress, ruining his chances with Elaine.  Losing her seems to awaken Ben for the first time in his life.  He finally has someone to talk to, to share everything going on in his life with, and- most importantly- someone who understands him.  The film switches tone from a lethargic, drawn out movie about a recent graduate who has no purpose, to an upbeat romantic film about a young man fighting for something for the first time in his life.

The characters in this film are always doing something so that the emotions and plot come from actions rather than from words spoken by the main characters.  Ben is always trying to get Mrs. Robinson to talk to him, but all she wants to do is hop in bed with him.  All his parents want Ben to do is go out there and apply to grad school.  Ben, silent throughout most of the film, is unable to get his voice across to his family and relationships.Screen Shot 2016-10-30 at 12.31.00 PM.png

After proposing to Elaine, Ben is adamant that she say yes, even though she has already said she is considering Carl Smith’s proposal.  On top of that, Elaine’s father reminds him that he is “filth” and that he is never to see or speak to his daughter again.  Even after this interaction and her refusal of the proposal, he never ceases to give up on love.  Ben proceeds to go on a mad chase through Southern California, all the way from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara, in order to the stop Elaine’s wedding before it’s too late.  Luckily for the track star, he makes in just in time to win her over.  His happiness soon fades, however, as soon as he realizes what he has just done: won over the girl whose lover is his lover.Screen Shot 2016-10-30 at 12.34.02 PM.png

I usually do not care for older movies because they don’t seem to relate to me or to society today.  This 1967 movie is different because it touches on the fears, uncertainties, and timidness of most college graduates today.  I am less than a year away from graduating, and am having many of the same feelings Ben expresses in the film.  Of course, being the same age as the character gives me some basis for connection, perhaps more so than younger viewers or older viewers who have forgotten what this transition feels like.  For example, a review by esteemed Hollywood Reporter, John Mahoney, captures the same critique on how this film relates to all different age groups.  This film is beautiful in the sense that it switches from comedy to tragedy to romance very quickly, and life is like that sometimes.  Mike Nichols has captured the essence of the eternal struggle of youth, yesterday and today: the real world isn’t all that glamorous, and every decision you make can have an impact on your life forever.Screen Shot 2016-10-30 at 12.30.23 PM.png

Review by: Courteney Case

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11 Responses to Mike Nichols Captures the Reality of Emotions Post-Grad in The Graduate

  1. mediaphiles says:

    Not sure I would have noticed the connection between Mrs. Robinson’s cougar-ness, and the animal print clothing. That’s a clever move by Nichols, and a good observation! I haven’t seen “The Graduate”, but am now interested, especially with the comparison between how Max feels as a recent graduate and we may here in a few short months.

    Matt M

  2. mediaphiles says:

    Interesting comparison, with me graduating within a matter of months I would like to see this movie since you described how relatable it is to college kids although it is from the 60’s.
    -Kendall Fischlein

  3. mediaphiles says:

    Courtney,
    Great review! Although I haven’t seen The Graduate, it has always been on my list of films to watch. I did recently watch Rumor Has it, which plays off of the plot line in The Graduate. Have you seen that movie? I enjoyed reading the article you included, as well!

    -Allie Kleinman

  4. mediaphiles says:

    This film definitely is a film that all college graduates and soon to be graduates! I also found it really interesting how the director manipulated time to make everything feel painful and drawn out after Ben graduates, until he meets Elaine. I agree that this film still feels current even all these years later. Great review!

    -Kayla Pierle

  5. mediaphiles says:

    Courteney,
    It was very interesting to read your part about how the movie shifts through all sorts of genre’s as it progresses. I have always found that my favorite kind of movies are the ones that can make me feel a wide range of emotions throughout the viewing. I hope to see this movie sometime when I get a minute to watch some movies outside of schoolwork. It sounds very good.

    -Sam Ederle

  6. mediaphiles says:

    This is a great review on a great movie! I really enjoyed your description of how the movie changes pace, and I definitely agree that that is representative of Ben finding a purpose in his life. I also think it is important how you noted that this film is still relevant. Films that are timeless, and can truly remain applicable to different generations are so important to linking society, and I think you highlighted that really well.
    -Sam Yezerski

  7. marymdalton says:

    Nicely done, Courteney!

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