CineBooks' Motion Picture Guide Review

5.0 stars out of 5

One of the more subtle comedies on film, The Graduate was a tour de force for newcomer Dustin Hoffman and made him and Katharine Ross, who plays his young lover, overnight sensations.

Troubled youth Ben (Hoffman) is the graduate, a pensive and somewhat shy youth of wealthy Southern California suburbia. Upon completion of his college studies, he is pressured by family and friends to "get going" with his life, encouraged at every turn to find a job, marry, and become a clone of his parents. Elaine's (Ross) mother, Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft), vamps Ben who cannot believe the older, married woman—she and her husband (Murray Hamilton) are his parents' best friends—is seducing him. Ben falls in love with her daughter Elaine, and is put in the exhausting position of maintaining relationships with mother and daughter. He finally decides that Elaine will be his wife, although her mother is wholly opposed to the marriage.

When Elaine goes off to a San Francisco college, he drives up the coast to convince her to marry him but is foiled in an awkward confrontation with her father. Elaine decides she will marry another, but, at the last minute, Ben rushes to the church, banging on the window to get the bride's attention. Just before saying "I do," Elaine hitches up her bridal gown, throws back her veil, and rushes outside to clasp hands with Ben. The two flee irate family and friends to catch a bus to nowhere in particular.

All in all, The Graduate is a phenomenal film with a flawless cast and production staff. This comedy is wonderfully crafted by director Mike Nichols who presents a half-dozen hilarious scenes, including Ben escaping badgering advice by submerging himself in the family pool in scuba gear and Mrs. Robinson's sudden shift from middle-aged housewife to Theda Bara, hiking her skirts lasciviously and purring promises of smoldering sex that almost puts Ben into a comatose state. Nichols was to declare: "I think Benjamin and Elaine will end up exactly like their parents; that's what I was trying to say in the last scene [of the film]." Yet the well-to-do younger audiences of the day interpreted this sequence of blatant heroics as a wonderful act of defiance by two young persons whose destinies were being manipulated by their parents.

The film was an enormous hit, yielding $40 million. Nichols, who had already scored heavily with his Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? (1966), became the most important director in Hollywood by virtue of The Graduate. However, much of the credit for the innovative and fluid graphics in the film must go to cameraman Robert Surtees, who was allowed a free hand to widely experiment. For example, the telescopic shot of Ben running to prevent the wedding causes him to appear not to be getting anywhere, almost as if he is running in place. Richard Dreyfuss made his film debut here, but you'll have to look fast to catch him as one of the college students.


Nichols won an Oscar for his direction. Other nominations included Best Picture, Best Actor (both won by "In The Heat Of The Night"), Best Actress (Bancroft lost to Katharine Hepburn), Best Supporting Actress, and Best Screenplay.

Review courtesy of Cinemania
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