Movie Review: The Graduate

For those of you who are following along, well, the planned research I mentioned a while ago didn't happen.  Other more pressing work came up.  However, it's on the back burner.  Should you be interested, never fear, the science will might be conducted at some point.

For my film criticism class I had to write a movie review, and chose to review The Graduate.  I admit I'm nervous publicizing an opinion about such a well known classic movie, but then I wouldn't hesitate to say the same things loudly in a crowded room, so here goes.

The Graduate is a coming of age story.  Benjamin Braddock, recently finished with college, comes home to a controlling, high-pressure set of parents and family friends.  Not sure what he wants to do next, he lazes around home.  In his words, “it’s very comfortable to drift here.”

            Meanwhile, a family friend, the much older and married Mrs. Robinson, seduces him and they enter an affair.  While his parents suspect something is up, they (along with Mrs. Robinson’s husband) are trying to convince him to get to know Elaine, the Robinson’s daughter.  Of course, Mrs. Robinson is vehemently opposed to this idea.

            For a funny movie, The Graduate is full of conflict with more tension than that in the average comedy.  Besides the double entendres and witty jokes, the situations Ben gets into are highly ironic.  Right after the first seduction attempt by Mrs. Robinson, Mr. Robinson arrives and advises him to “Sow a few wild oats, take things as they come, have a good time with the girls and so forth...You have yourself a few flings this summer.” 

            The movie features exemplary editing by Sam O’Steen.  The editing contributes to the irony, particularly in a section where the setting switches back and forth repeatedly between Ben’s home and the hotel room where the affair occurs.  For example, he is seen walking through a door at home and then coming out of a door at the hotel.  This device is used to compare his two escapes: his affair and his family’s pool.

            Water is a running theme in the movie and has meaning on several levels.  The pool can represent affluence, but at a deeper level, when Ben is drifting in the pool, he’s drifting through life.  Darkness is also symbolic in the movie.  The greatest use of light and dark is in the bedroom scenes, where Ben turns the lamp on and Mrs. Robinson shuts it off again, repeatedly.  The presence of darkness is often tied brilliantly to the classic Simon & Garfunkel song The Sound of Silence.

            The most memorable moments in the soundtrack are contributed by that melodic duo.  There is other music too, but it is usually further in the background and not used to advance to the next scene the way Simon & Garfunkel’s ballads are.  They typically back montages, like the one in which Ben drives across the state to try to stop a wedding.  It is a scene that shows powerfully how he has changed throughout the movie.

            He is in fact a very well-developed character.  From the beginning he is awkward and indecisive, allowing himself to be seduced even as he is almost too nervous to set up the tryst.  The turning point comes when he falls in love with Elaine Robinson, expressed in words when he tells his father, “I’m going to marry her.”  From that point on he is purposeful, driven, persistent to achieve that goal.  Even though this watershed is abrupt, it is very credible because the audience wants to see him succeed at something.  We see ourselves in his inability to stop sinning, his inertia, and his constantly being overshadowed by his parents and their friends.

            The Graduate is a classic movie for a reason: everyone grows up.  Everyone can relate to the feelings experienced by Ben, if not to the same degree.