"Are you here for an affair sir?" - The hotel receptionist talking to Dustin Hoffman's character in the 1967 classic, "The Graduate". That line is just so classic and brilliant. I literally feel bad that I have lived 25 years and never took the time to sit down and watch this masterpiece of cinema.
I can hardly contain myself right now. I know that I am 43 years late but I am going to say it anyways. THE GRADUATE is truly one of the greatest films ever made. One minute ago, the credits started rolling and I hopped on my computer to type out my feelings.
First of all, let me say that the film is GENIUS, SEDUCTIVE, BRILLIANT, FUNNY, BAD-ASS, INTENSE and HOT at the exact same time. Mike Nichols directs the film in such a way that even the simplest of scenes has an intense edge to it. There were times wheres I felt so agitated for Dustin Hoffman's character that I almost had to get off the couch and walk around. During the first 20 minutes or so of the film, his character was just so uncomfortable. He has this stress level to him that makes the audience feel so agitated. You can 100% feel this while his parents dress him up in that scuba-diving suit. As I sit here typing this, I am re-watching the opening sequence where he lands in that airport and is on that escalator traveling through the airport. Simon and Garfunkel's classic "The Sound of Silence" is playing in the background as there is a voice telling people how to ride the escalator. That already shows the agitation of the character.
As he gets home to attend his graduation party, Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft), asks for a ride home. At first, he seems a bit reluctant, but like everything else in his life, he is talked into it. Hoffman's character never really thought for himself until the incident with Mrs. Robinson. She essentially breaks him down.
After having the affair that no one was supposed to know about, he then takes Mrs. Robinson's daughter, Elaine (Katharine Ross) out on a date, against Mrs. Robinson's wishes. Obviously, she is jealous that he will fancy her daughter over her. He ends up falling in love with Elaine and the situation gets a bit messy.
Hoffman's character stated in the beginning that he wanted his future to be different. You can tell that he doesn't want to follow the normal path and as you watch the film, his life takes many different awkward turns.
Let me first talk about Mike Nichol's direction. It honestly felt like I was just watching a real story unfold. I didn't feel like I was watching a piece of cinema, but a documentary on a real life story. For example, in the beginning of the film, Hoffman's father is talking to him about coming downstairs for his graduation party. In walks his mother and she just walks right in front of the camera and stands there talking to both Hoffman and the father. All we see on screen is her dress covering the entire frame. It was as if Nichols didn't care about the audience. The story would go on regardless.
Another shot that blew me away was at the Taft Hotel, where he first has sex with Mrs. Robinson. As he anxiously waits for her, he is snooping around the lobby and he walks over to the reception desk. We view this conversation he has with the hotel receptionist through a piece of wood on the desk. Again, it was if the camera didn't exist. We were seeing the story through Hoffman's eyes.
Throughout the film we are treated to a couple of fantastic Simon and Garfunkel songs that fit the film brilliantly. There is a beautiful song that plays throughout a montage sequence as he is trying to win Elaine back. The song was entitled "Scarborough Fair" and the lyrics stuck with me throughout the entire film.
Some issues I had with the film actually worked themselves out at the end. Throughout the movie, I felt the arcs that characters went through were sometimes a bit unrealistic. For example, when he takes out Elaine for the first time, he tries to be a complete dick to her because he doesn't want to piss off Mrs. Robinson. He then notices her tears as he takes her to a strip club and immediately apologizes which is followed with a kiss. He then somehow immediately falls in love with her. At the time I was watching it, I thought to myself that it was a bit quick. Though, as the movie went out, it all made sense. There was no path for this character. Everything happened for a reason and he just knew that she was the one. We didn't need a build up. They both knew they were meant for each other. The drama ensues when he has to tell her about the affair with her mother. His trek to win her back though is a like an action movie of it's own. Each time he was driving in that little red car, I felt so much emotion for him. What was weird is that Hoffman's face never really said much. He just carried a lot of weight in his face. You never really knew what his character was thinking.
I wanted nothing more than for he and Elaine to be together and he would stop at absolutely nothing to be with her. There are so many intense scenes between Ben and Mrs. Robinson, Ben and Mr. Robinson and Ben and Elaine. I felt a knot in my stomach the entire film.
Neither Ben nor Eliane ever knew what they truly wanted in life. They just knew they wanted to be together and we see in the last scene of the film that everything else in the world doesn't matter. Ben was the happiest with Elaine.
Some of my favorite aspects of the film were the little things. Throughout the film, we start to hear little notes and guitar riffs leading up to the classic Simon and Garfunkel song "Mrs. Robinson." As the film is coming to a close, the song is finally heard in it's glorious full form. As the climax of the song his and then calms down, there is a bit where the guitar is just chugging along. Ben stops at a gas station for directions and then drives off without getting gas. As the guitar riff slowly chugs to an end, so does his car. He runs out of the gas at the tune of the guitar riff. Simple and subtle, yet genius. I also really enjoyed the nervous noises Ben would make in the beginning of the film, as he was getting used to the fact that he was having an affair with a married woman.
Every aspect of the film worked. All in all, it's a rather chaotic movie. There is truly never direction for any of the characters, which I really loved. I wish more movies followed this formula. As it really threw me off at times.
I want to watch this movie again and again.