"The Graduate," Anybody?

This movie pops up often on movie critics’ lists of “favorite” or “best” movies of all time. Why?

Yeah, I’ve seen it. I’m familiar with all the familiar lines. But what is so great about this movie? (I’m not saying it’s bad, just that I don’t see why it’s so “great.”) Am I missing some metaphors or symbolism that might make me see the light?

“The Graduate” was released at a time when all social norms were being spun around 180 degrees. “The Graduate” really stands out if you compare it to the thousands of films that came before it, however there doesn’t seem to be anything very exceptional about it compared to all those that came after. I’d hazard that if the movie had been released just a few years later than when it did, it would not have the critical reputation it has today.

BTW, is anybody else bothered by the fact the the song “Mrs. Robinson” has absolutely nothing to do with the character in the movie?

I never much liked “The Graduate,” either. Now, I suppose that’s partly for generational reasons: I’m 38, after all, too young to be part of the “disaffected generation” of the 1960s, so even if “The Graduate” were a brilliant film, I probably couldn’t relate to it as 22 year old might have in 1968.

Still, the film is deeply flawed in all kinds of ways, starting with the casting. Dustin Hoffman is a great actor, but he was ridiculously miscast in the role of Benjamin. He was waaay too old to pass for a 22 year old, and waaaay too ethnic to be playing a rich, suburban WASP.

A lot of critics have re-evaluated “The Graduate” and found it somewhat lacking. It was one of those movies that fit in pretty well with the times, but in retrospect is pretty unremarkable.

Here’s what Roger Ebert has to say about it

Roger Ebert?? ROGER EBERT!?!? ::: cough, cough cough :::

… proving, I guess, that merely surviving long enough in a field is a credential, despite absence of any other critical faculties.

I read the Ebert review you cited, and seems to me he’s writing more about himself and his reactions (then and now, as he has aged but the movie remains unchanged) then about the movie.

Mark Estrin and Wayne Schuth comment, in the very wonderful Film Directors Encyclopedia, edited by Andrew Sarris, that Dustin Hoffman’s character “is the moralistic spokesman for a generation that mistrusted anyone over thirty and vowed never to go into plastics.” No doubt that THE GRADUATE was a social satire, and no doubt that the society being satirized is no more. An 18-year old sleeping with his friend’s mother is no longer shocking – heck, the 18-year old male sleeping with his friend’s FATHER would no longer be shocking. Those societal norms are long dead, at least in terms of the entertainment industry. Does that make the film obsolete?

I don’t think so – the world of CITIZEN KANE or of IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE or of Charlie Chaplin are also long gone. Those works also satirize the society of their times, and yet are enjoyed today.

IMHO, THE GRADUATE retains its importance in film history, and as social satire. Those with no feeling for history, of course, will reject such rationale – if it’s not got the latest special effects, octophonic sound, flaming colour and widescreen, it’s not worthwhile. I weep for such people.

<-----applauding Dex WILDLY here…I completely agree !!! :slight_smile:


"If you wanna kiss the sky, you’d better learn how to kneel "

Excellent post, CKDextHavn. The only thing I can add is that it’s one of those rare movies that’s funny while you’re still in the first blush of youth and innocence, and funny FOR COMPLETELY DIFFERENT REASONS a few years later. That alone is a sign of genius.

Well, the post war baby boomers [those born '46-'56] set new trends & new grounds & that film was one that set a trend for that time period…older woman, younger man. Close to it, same period, Summer of 42, way too young guy [15?] way too old woman. Not far, but again reaching into new territory, Luna, a mother & son sex thing, that I wish I could forget. All around the same time period…kinda like Woodstock, you know, something that happened then.

Ooops – he’s a college graduate, not a high school graduate, so he’s 21 or 22, not 18. Sheeeeesh on me.

CKDextHavn, oh, yes thanks for reminding me, I wouldn’t have known really from watching it as I didn’t have enough hearing at the time.

Anyway, the guy was seduced by his fiance’s mother & I don’t know how many people on the baord would want that to happen.

me & some friends saw this while we were in college (less than 5 years ago). While we enjoyed it (um, the last scene is just so damn classic!) three of us (all women) had a similar reaction:

Benjamin’s behavior, (following [elaine? can’t remember]to Berkely, following her around, appearing on her doorstep uninvited… which apparently was “cutesy-romantic” when the film was made, now seems “scary-stalking-call-the-police-and-get-a-restraining-order”.

Guess the times have changed, huh?

I enjoyed this movie a lot. “EEEEEE-laine!”
But you’re right, it doesn’t belong in the list of the top 100. Of course, this from the woman who keeps falling asleep during Citizen Kane (I swear, I’ll NEVER understand what Rosebud has to do with it) and thinks Stanley Kubrick should have been admitted to the same pysch ward for obscure, sexually obsessed directors as David Lych…

So what do I know?

Now that you brought up “Citizen Kane”, why does that movie always reach the top of critics’ lists? As an somewhat educated 23 year old, I just don’t get it. Is it simply because the movie broke new ground in filmmaking at the time of its release, or is it something deeper?

Then again I don’t get “The Graduate” either, although the directing of the movie is very interesting.

Thank you, Aaron! I’ve always thought Citizen Kane was over-rated, too. OK, it’s a good film, maybe even a very good film. But “the best?” Feh! It’s got great, innovative cinematography, but the rest of the film is only OK. I like Welles’ The Magnificent Ambersons better.

And while I’m at it: Laurence Olivier was a big ol’ over-acting hambone!

. . . You can see what kinda mood I’m in today . . .

Yeah, and while we’re at it, let’s consider that guy Shakespeare. Man, talk about overrated, everything he wrote was cliche! Hardly a line of some of those plays that don’t just drip with cliches!

[ End of sarcasm alert ]

Yes, much of the greatness of CITIZEN KANE is the ground-breaking innovation. No, it’s not as exciting as RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, and no, it’s not as funny as SOMETHING ABOUT MARY. But if there were no CITIZEN KANE, there would never have been a RAIDERS or a MARY, either.

Oh, stop. Running down CITIZEN KANE is like saying Dashiell Hammett was a second-rate crime writer, or that Louis Armstrong wasn’t that hot a trumpet player, 'cause look at how many people sounded like them afterward.

Leaving the innovative storytelling technique aside, KANE is important for breaking ground in cinematography, use of oddball lighting, lengthy, unbroken shots, nonreliance on closeups, etc…and don’t forget that really cool music by Bernie Herrmann, king of movie composers!

It’s also one of the surprising small handful of movies you can watch several times a year without getting bored with it.


“But if there were no CITIZEN KANE, there would never have been a RAIDERS or a MARY, either.”

Ah–another reason to dislike it!

C’mon, guys, get your panties out of a bunch, didn’t I admit it may be a great film? I just don’t personally care for it, and am tired of seeing it called The Greatest Film Ever, over and over again.

Vanilla is the most popular ice-cream flavor in the U.S., but that doesn’t mean EVERYBODY likes it.

Please, don’t compare Citizen Kane to vanilla.

Opinions are opinions, I for one love Citizen Kane, and everytime I see it, I see a new reason to love it.

But, even if you dislike it, it can’t be like vanilla, it has too many twists and turns, its more like Peanut Butter Chocolate, or Mint Chocolate Chip.

I think its funny that Citizen Kane is so widely known as the best movie ever, but in the 1952 Sight and Sound survey it didn’t even make the top 10.

When Welles was alive, only two people regularly called him a genius, Bogdanovich, and Welles himself. When he dies everyone the world over calls him a genius. The same people who wouldn’t return his calls. Thats a generalization, but not far from the truth. There was this AFI celebration of his life right after his death. Everyone went up and gave great words about him. His mistress goes up and just about tears every one a new one.

Hmm, I seem to be in a ranting mood today. Please forgive me.


CKDextHavn’s comments bring up another curiosity I’ve been pondering-- Do Artists only create art for other Artists? Meaning: do they only create art that other artists would understand, or do they create art that any human would find ascetically pleasing?

The Shakespeare example is a good one to work on. Let’s assume that Shakespeare wanted to produce something fine, so he creates all his literary rules from scratch according to his idea of what humans need. He tosses in some excellent dialog based on his insights into politics and society. He adds some humor which probably finds humorous himself. During his lifetime he creates some fantastic plays from his methodology which are ground-breaking. Not only are they ground-breaking, but Shakespeare becomes recognized as a literary genius, and his plays become curriculum for study for the next several hundred years.

Now, it would seem that any artist would want to proscribe to Shakespeare’s methodology: do it your own way. Isn’t that what art is–expression? Except over the years since Shakespeare there’s been few artists per capita who have produced ground-breaking work. And even then, many of the ‘great’ items of art were built on a predecessor’s genius. Because of this few new ideas emerge, and old ideas are overused. As an example, Shakespeare has been plagiarized to the point where it’s cliche.

So, do artists steal previous artists’ ideas because: 1. they know if their critics (other artists) don’t understand their work, it has little chance of being recognized. Or 2. there really are only a few axioms for producing meaning in a certain media, and since other methods don’t work, there’s little reason for experimenting with them.

Shakespeare definitely did NOT “go his own way.” Like most writers of his day, he was constantly seeking financial backing, and was eager to please the people who gave him money. He was also eager to appeal to mass audiences, and if that meant tossing in some raunchy jokes to keep the rabble happy, Shakespeare didn’t object.

Artists have ALWAYS had to balance their sense of aestehtics with the need to please the masses and the financial “angels.” Shakespeare was no more immune from this need than Steven Spielberg or David Kelley. It’s a rare artist indeed who writes or creates PURELY for himself.