The Film (5/5)
Mike Nichol's The Graduate is a film that I feel like I have grown up with. I am obviously too young to have seen it during it's first run, but it's a film that I have seen multiple times during my life at varying different points, and my perspective seemingly has changed during each viewing of the film. I will preface that by saying that at no point was my opinion of the film negative, I've always been a firm fan of The Graduate.
I first saw the film on a TV broadcast about 20 years ago around age 12, before then I had heard of it, as it was one of my Mother's favorite films, and I sat in my room, watched it and enjoyed it, but purely on a surface level. A few years later as an A/V student in high school I saw it again on a rented video tape, and watched it again this time from a visual perspective. In my 20's as I watched the film at roughly the same age as the protagonist Benjamin Braddock I tended to view it through his awkward perspective. Now in my 30's and having settled into life somewhat, the film makes more sense to me than ever. It came over in waves as hysterically funny, and at moments quite bleak.
The Graduate follows Benjamin Braddock a recent Southern California college graduate that is now faced with what he wants to do with the rest of his life. Since graduating his aspirations have been essentially to drink beer, sleep, and lounge around in his parents pool. Ben's parents want him to go to graduate school, but he has no interest in that, and as far getting a job, that apparently isn't on the cards either. Into this situation comes Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft) his Father's business partners wife. Mrs. Robinson is a sexually frustrated woman, who is disillusioned in her marriage, and sees Ben as a way to have some mild extra marital escapades. Ben and her become involved sexually, with no other basis for a relationship. When Ben tries to initiate conversation with Mrs. Robinson it becomes quite awkward, until the subject of Mrs. Robinson’s daughter Elaine comes up, and then it gets even worse. Mrs. Robinson wants Ben to have nothing to do with her daughter, this offends Ben, but after an argument that almost ends their tryst, he agrees to avoid Elaine.
He is successful at evading Elaine until his Dad forces him on a blind date with her. He attempts to keep his promise to Mrs. Robinson by making the date awkward for Elaine, however, he feels bad about it, and also starts to develop feelings for the young Robinson, he changes course, and takes her on an appropriate date. The two begin to fall for each other, but Mrs. Robinson decides to play her hand, and reveals the affair between the two. This repulses Elaine, and ends Mrs. Robinsons marriage, but does not stop Ben who goes up to Elaine's Northern California university to continue his obsessive pursuit of her.
The Graduate was one of the first and most defining films of the "New Hollywood" movement that hit Hollywood in the late 60's, and came to define cinema throughout the 70's and into the early 1980's (the movement seemed to have it's swansong with the one-two punch of Raging Bull and Heaven's Gate). The New Hollywood filmmakers of which Nichols feels like one though he started earlier (he directed Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf in 1966). The movement as such as a loose collective of filmmakers could be considered one was primarily inspired by the European filmmakers of the era, most notably those of the French New Wave that surfaced in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. The influence of the French New Wave can be seen in the graduate with it’s most spontaneous camera moves and naturally flowing dialogue.
The film starts out feeling like a dark, coming of age comedy. However, Nichol's gradually descends into darker territory with his characters showing their willingness to throw their lives into upheaval in the name of their obsessions. The comedy never fully does take a backseat, and even the ending of the film has a certain absurd quality to it.
The performances should need no mention nearly 50 years after the fact, but Dustin Hoffman plays the confused, isolated, and obsessed Benjamin Braddock to perfection making him feel exactly as a real confused youth would at that moment in time. Anne Bancroft as Mrs. Robinson dominates the screen every moment she is on, oozing sensuality one moment, and raging anger the next. Katharine Ross as Elaine plays a character that seems to have the only the slightest care about her direction in the world, whether she marries the Doctor or Ben, it feels like her life is predetermined, but she plays an excellent foil between Mrs. Robinson and Ben, even if at times she seems more like a plot point than a character. Her performance is still striking as a youth seemingly out of control of her own destiny.
OK, I will admit I skipped the first Blu-ray of the Graduate, but heard there were issues with that one involving flickering in the image. This one looks simply amazing. Criterion presents the Graduate in a 2:35:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer that preserves the OAR of the film. Detail here is absolutely amazing, and everything from facial close-ups to the lines in Mrs. Robinson’s stockings sees an improvement all around in that department. Colors are natural and stable, and blacks are for the most part inky and deep though I did detect some very minor crush.
There are 2 audio options LPCM 1.0 mono track in English and a DTS HD MA 5.1 Both tracks are quite suitable for the most part though I will admit I stuck to the mono track for the most part. Dialogue, Score, and ambient sound came through nicely.
The Criterion Blu-ray of The Graduate is stacked with extras. There are multiple commentary tracks, screen tests with the actors, on camera interviews, TV segments, documentaries, trailers, liner notes, and MORE.
The Graduate is a landmark film, and one of the first of the New Hollywood films. However, outside of whatever historical context it has acquired over the last half century, it is also a very entertaining film. The Blu-ray looks and sounds brilliant, and is loaded up with extras. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.