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Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Retro Review: The Graduate (1967)

The Graduate
1967
Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft, Katherine Ross, William Daniels, Murray Hamilton, Elizabeth Wilson
Genre: Romantic Comedy- Drama
U.S Lifetime Gross: over $104 million 

Plot: A disillusioned college graduate finds himself torn between his older lover and her daughter 





'Passes The Grade, But Is By No Means Hoffman's Best- Ever Performance, Despite Its Massive Plaudits'

A film that has been on my Dustin Hoffman watchlist for quite some time and one that opened the doors for his illustrious career, The Graduate was a movie that I had heard of, and was initially a film that I wouldn't watch, because I didn't think the plot and the story would entice or entertain me. Going into it, I was prepared for what was lying ahead but at the same time, I was curious to find out why it was and is heralded as a timeless classic and whether or not I'll feel the same way as the people who raved about The Graduate

Directed by Mike Nichols, The Graduate is noted as Dustin Hoffman's first well-known acting film that introduced audiences to this actor and is based on the novel by Charles Webb. The theme of this movie is basically delving into what happens when a younger man falls for an older woman in a comedic sense. But there is an added twist, and that is the woman that the young man is in love with, turns out to be the mother of the daughter he is seeing or currently in a relationship with. 

Mild-mannered Benjamin Braddock is a recent college graduate, who is fresh from his studies. He is undecided and a bit lost about what to do with his future. Gawky, insecure and a neurotic who is lacking in confidence and often timid, all this comes to ahead through his encounter with Mrs Robinson, who is already married and she manages to take Benjamin under her wing, and seduce him. They have an affair, Benjamin finds himself falling for his girlfriend's mother. 

Casting a 30-year-old Dustin Hoffman to play a 21- year- old is an odd decision, and here he definitely looks like he is in his early 30s-40s and it sort of undercuts the believability of the character slightly. 

The tan lines on Mrs Robinson were both amusing and awful looking and the editing was dodgy as it switches and cuts from a part of her naked body to Ben's reactions and then to another part of her body and Ben's face. Mrs Robinson herself is a very domineering woman. The first half was problematic for me as it dragged and the longer it did so, the less invested I was in the film by that point. 

Dustin Hoffman here is, okay: his naivete as Ben is touching and sweet at first, but then, it becomes sort of creepy in a stalker-ish kind of way later on in the film. His behaviour descends into selfishness as he takes his girlfriend/fiance to a strip club and he practically humiliates her, only to make amends and the later scenes with Benjamin and Elaine were cute. They salvaged, what would have turned out to be, a rather disappointing & empty film, which also wasn't as entertaining enough. If the first half had been as good as the latter half, that would have been great. At least one of the positives here is when Dustin was younger he looks good. But I wasn't a huge fan of Benjamin, didn't like Mrs Robinson, felt a tad sorry for Elaine & the soundtrack was overbearing and overplayed. The Simon and Garfunkel song becomes grating and an annoyance after a while when it is overused time and time again.

The first 30 mins I couldn't get into the film as much as I could, and a lot of it didn't make a lot of sense, but as it went on and right after he reconciles with Elaine, it gets better. 

Alas, The Graduate just about survives the test of time and on nostalgia alone. 





Final Verdict
 

The Graduate has virtually little charm compared to Tootsie as a Dustin Hoffman romantic comedy and Hoffman followed up his turn as Benjamin Braddock in Midnight Cowboy, 2 years later, which also went even further as a film than The Graduate ever did. I just couldn't get into it fully as I would have liked to. 


As I sat through it, I never bought into the hype & that what was lauded as a classic and phenomenal over 40 years ago, just doesn't seem to quite have that same exact impact and resonance that I wanted it to have on me. 

This is another case where IMDb ratings have little to no bearing on my choice of films and in deciding what I enjoy and what I don't enjoy and I am a little bemused by The Graduate's reputation as being an influential film, when Sydney Pollack's Tootsie was far more progressive. Just when I thought I couldn't enjoy it anymore, the second half with Benjamin & Elaine was an improvement over the first half, however, & it did redeem things for me. 


Like I always say I love Dustin Hoffman as an actor: he is amazing, I enjoy many of his movies and he is my favourite dramatic actor of all-time, who I admire a lot, but I never really and truly bought into his character as Ben and plus, he has given far better performances in other movies than this offering. The Graduate is a '60s movie all the way and despite the interesting subject matter, luckily and thankfully the second half of the film was particularly good and watchable and thus, it bumped it up to an extra mark. Otherwise, had it not been as good, I would have given up on it completely. 


I wouldn't say that it puzzles me to see The Graduate regarded as a classic and it is down to a generational thing; i.e. if you were born before the 1960s or were around when it came out, it is a film you have to love, because Midnight Cowboy - another Dustin Hoffman movie - came out in 1969 and I so enjoyed that movie a great deal, speaking as a someone who was born in the 1980s. I can appreciate films and enjoy films from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, as long as I find it enjoyable. 

But what I will say and finish with is that as a Dustin Hoffman film, whilst I can understand its plaudits, I have seen better movies with him in it than The Graduate and have found his other performances far more entertaining than as Ben. 


Overall:


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