I rarely rewatch films I don't care for, largely because I rarely rewatch films in general. A movie has to be special or captivating to reel me in for multiple viewings. I usually have the mindset that there are so many films I want to see, I have to constantly tread new ground in order to hopefully see them all. On occasion, however, especially if a film is well-loved, I'll give it another try and attempt to see anything I may have missed. Seldom have I been as rewarded by such a rewatch as I was with Mike Nichols 1967 film, The Graduate. Following the point in time in a young man's life that if often aimless, that time immediately following college graduation, Nichols does an exceptional job at conveying the listlessness of spirit once ones expected education level is completed. Caught between deciding between marriage and graduate school while his parent's expectations pressure him, Benjamin finds avoiding the decision as long as possible to be the option he is most content with. Starring Dustin Hoffman, in a breakout role, and the incomparable Anne Bancroft, The Graduate is a thoughtful look at the expectations of others and the soul-searching one has to contend with throughout their lives.
Just home from college after his recent graduation, Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) is ready to relax after finishing his studies and fill his days by his parent's pool. With no romantic interests or jobs waiting for him, his father pushes him to go to graduate school, and his mother encourages him to go on more dates. Benjamin comes from an upscale neighborhood, and the parents of his friends, all of whom expect him to further his education, wait to hear of a graduate school announcement, all of them except Mrs. Robinson. A friend of his parents, Mrs. Robinson is a beautiful and lonely woman who has a daughter near Benjamin's age. That doesn't stop her from propositioning him and prompting him to "sow one's wild oats" while he still has the chance. Surprised and startled by her suggestion, the inexperienced Benjamin attempts to avoid the Robinson's all together before eventually giving in to carrying on a tryst with the family's matriarch. Despite the situation remaining strenuous for Benjamin, as he feels bad for keeping something of this magnitude from his parents, the two carry on both seeming to be fulfilled in some way by the other. As time wears on, and Benjamin seems to be no closer to starting graduate school or getting married, his parents set him up with none other than the Robinson's daughter. This clearly throws a wrench into the lives of both Benjamin and Mrs. Robinson, leaving the former no other choice but to begin making some decisions about his life.
Perhaps, part of the reason that I didn't initially like The Graduate when I first watched it, is because I don't care for Dustin Hoffman. I can almost never get beyond him to enjoy the characters he creates. Interestingly, Hoffman was initially going to pass on an audition for the film because he was already committed to playing Leo Bloom in the Mel Brooks production, The Producers. So certain that he wouldn't be selected in the role as the suitor of his wife, Anne Bancroft, Mel Brooks released Dustin Hoffman to audition for The Graduate. As much as I may have enjoyed this more the first time with someone besides Hoffman in the lead role, I'm of course thrilled that this paved the way for Gene Wilder's first strong screen role in THe Producers. I appreciated Hoffman's performance much more this time around, as he seemed to embody the character of someone uncomfortably trying to make their way through life, seemingly unsure of anything.
The Graduate begins where Say Anything...ends. Cameron Crowe's excellent directorial debut features a high school senior unsure of what direction to take his life after graduation. The Graduate begins with a long take on a young man with no direction who has just finished college, as he took the route that was expected of him. In my mind, a cinematic universe exists where Lloyd Dobler and Benjamin Braddock are the same person, endlessly wandering through life aimlessly. I anxiously anticipate a post-marriage sequel, perhaps dealing with the pitfalls of a dead-end job or unfulfilling career, I'm flexible. The soundtrack of Graduate is sensational, made up of Simon & Garfunkel songs, perfectly accompanying the mood of Benjamin Braddock. The film was also shot in a powerful way, with Benjamin's face, and the faces of those he communicates with, often obstructed excellently symbolizing the many things that hinder his life and complicate his decision-making.
The character introduction of Mrs. Robinson is beautifully communicated thanks to Anne Bancroft. Embodying the perfect balance of unattainable eminence and fragile regret, Bancroft perfectly exposes both aspects of her character. Making herself at home in Benjamin's room where he retreated to for a moment of quiet introspection, Mrs. Robinson shows her strength and control over the situation. It is instantly clear to see that she knows exactly how her relationship with Benjamin is going to play out. She seems to feed off of his discomfort, never being setback by his initial refusal of her advances. Mrs. Robinson's character is fully fleshed out. She is disappointed in herself for giving up everything she wanted in exchange for the chains of matrimony and motherhood. Benjamin isn't the only one searching for something in life. Mrs. Robinson, who finds her motherly duties nearly complete as her daughter prepares to attend college, and her duties as a wife often ignored by her husband who seems to always be inexplicably absent from their residence. Her character, in conjunction with Benjamin's, goes to show that, as human beings, we are always searching for something just beyond our grasp, and no amount of seeming contentment ever really puts an end to that search.