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“The Graduate”; still on the Dean’s List after 44 years

“The Graduate” is a 1967 film that is considered to be a coming of age story and a classic by critics spanning the globe. It was nominated for several Oscars, and its’ director won the Best Director Oscar and is considered to be an amazing piece of cinematography for its’ time. After viewing the movie, I would have to whole-heartedly agree with those sentiments and the accolades. “The Graduate” is a movie that will have you, at the beginning, laughing and cringing at the awkwardness and social missteps of Benjamin Braddock, and at the end, have you questioning life and love as it exists then and today.

Dustin Hoffman, in his first major film role, portrays our main character Benjamin Braddock, a 20 year old college graduate returning home amid pressure about what he is going to do with his life. To say Hoffman nailed this role would be an understatement, he turned in a performance very worthy of the Golden Globe and Oscar nominations for Best Actor that he received. Benjamin Braddock, while an outstanding student, is a socially inept human being and Hoffman portrays that to its’ fullest throughout the movie. Braddock, fresh out of college, wants something more from life, he wants something “different”. This is where we meet the iconic Mrs. Robinson portrayed by Anne Bancroft. Anne Bancroft, while only 5 years older than Hoffman when this was filmed, pulls off the role of a housewife searching for something more or something different as well, perfectly. An affair begins between the two, one where it seems as if lust is the only thing driving it. Although it is not overtly stated in the film, the feeling is that Braddock is still searching for more, evident by a scene where Braddock and Mrs. Robinson are in bed and Braddock just wants to talk and get to know Mrs. Robinson while she is very hesitant to the idea. This is where Mrs. Robinson’s daughter, Elaine Robinson comes in. Elaine Robinson, played by a young, appealing Katharine Ross, displays innocence and grace that captures the eye of Braddock. Braddock now becomes torn between the repeated demands of Mrs. Robinson not to see Elaine, and the attraction and growing fondness for Elaine as she is the first person that he actually wants to be around. The two things must eventually come to a head and they do. I won’t give too much of the rest of the movie away, but the movie takes a turn from the comedy it begins as and transforms into a story about Braddock finding that difference he had been searching for and chasing after it.

I won’t give it away, but the film’s iconic ending, leaves you pondering about the search for something different and what it means to different people. The saying “A picture is worth a thousand words” fits the film’s final frame perfectly. “The Graduate” captures the essence of the uncertainty of love and life and the intertwining paths they take. Is love that “something more” that we are searching for to answer questions in our life and give us purpose, or is it just something that when we find it, it only creates a set of new and different questions? The film, considered a coming of age story in the society of the 1960’s, paints us a picture which still resonates today and is a film that people can identify with whether it be then, now or in the future.

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