09 November 2007

Movie Review: The Graduate

4 out of 5 stars

So I finally watched my Netflix of The Graduate, the 1967 Mike Nichols film that has often been cited as one of the most influential films of the century. But I have to disagree. I get the whole idea that the movie is supposed to represent the disconnect between generations. It's supposed to be some kind of movie about rebellion of a predictable life in favor of chasing after love and idealism...or something like that.

I can see that...but really, Ben strikes me as less of a 60's rebel and more as self-centered jerk better suited in the 80s. All throughout the movie, everything is about Ben. Even in his most impassioned moments (the latter part of his date with Elaine, he's droning on about himself and how she makes him feel alive blah blah blah...SHUTUP ALREADY!). One of the things that bothered me most was that I didn't buy that he was really in love w/ Elaine. He's a guy used to being at the top of his game, President of Everything in his Northeast college and clearly coming from a privilege, and Elaine was the one thing he felt like he couldn't have (aside from a post-collegiate life of meaning). The more that everyone told her that he couldn't be with Elaine, the more determined he became to get her. For Pete's sake, they had ONE DATE! Then he drove 9 hours from Pasadena to Berkeley and STALKED HER all around campus! Oh, and having lived in California, I can appreciate just how psychotic Ben was b/c he drove from Pasadena to Berkeley then to Santa Barbara...um, that's like 20some hours of driving. Ben is a PSYCHO. I think that we're supposed to be charmed by his neuroticism, much in the way that Woody Allen can be disarming...Sure, I fell for Ben Braddock in the beginning too, with all his nervous tics and sexual inexperience (Dustin Hoffman successfully takes an obnoxious character and makes him likable). But his egocentricism in the final iconic scene just KILLED ME. If you watch the final scene where Ben and Elaine (in wedding dress) are sitting at the back of the bus, there's a sense of awkwardness right after the adrenaline rush of escaping the wedding. Elaine looks over at Ben more than once, in search of some kind of reassurance from him that everything's going to be alright, that their love will get them through. But Ben keeps his eyes forward, seemingly lost in his own private victory - he said that he was going to marry Elaine Robinson, and though they weren't hitched at the end, he at least kept her from marrying Mr. Waspy McWasp!

Then there's the character of Mrs. Robinson, who some might vilify as an amoral, alcoholic seductress. But I think that she is the only admirable character in the movie. Okay, she's obviously not perfect...and the lie she tells is kosher at all...but she's far more interesting than the other characters. I've already talked about Ben's foibles. Elaine, while smart and pretty, is spineless. It's obvious in how she just happens to find herself engaged to Mr. McWasp. The Braddocks (BTW, Mr. Braddock is Mr. Feeney from Boy Meets World!) are overbearing and obnoxious. Mr. Robinson is innocuous. But back to Mrs. Robinson, brilliantly played by the late Anne Bancroft. This is a character with depth, a life that went unlived due to a twist of fate in her college days. She obviously cares for her family very much, or she would have divorced her husband long ago. I have my own crackpot theory...When Mrs. Robinson said that she didn't want Ben to ever date Elaine, it's probably because she wanted the best for her daughter, knowing that Ben would probably just break Elaine's heart or lead her to a life of boredom. She really did believe that Ben wasn't good enough for her daughter, because he really wasn't. However, in her self-loathing and desperation, he was good enough to help pass the time of her meaningless life.

Misc comments: really awesome cinemematography and direction, great witty writing. the movie is worth watching for the numerous lines and scenes which have become ingrained in pop culture. Love the Simon and Garfunkel-heavy soundtrack, though a bit boring in moments.


Elaine said...

Hey Steph, Nice review.
Overall, I like the Graduate a lot and not particularly because I like any of the characters but because it treats the lives of Benjamin's parents' generation and the lives of Benjamin's generation with equal skepticism.

I read the final sequence, where Ben and Elaine are sitting on the bus awkwardly as a big "now what?" for both of them. Now that Ben and Elaine have abandoned what is expected of them--Ben by eschewing a career in something like "plastics," Elaine by running away from perfect husband (and possibly school?) to be with Ben--what will they do? I like that the Graduate does not romanticize the lives of any of the characters, not even Ben and Elaine, but rather reminds that "the grass is always greener on the other side." Having an affair with an older, experienced woman; running off with the girl of one's dreams; eschewing the example of one's parents is always more appealing in the abstract.

Steph said...

Great points. I do appreciate the theme you brought up, and ultimately that's why I liked the film. Plus to be fair b/c some of the best films have some annoying characters.