A social force of cinema that influenced the generation gap, THE GRADUATE was a tour de force for newcomer Hoffman and made him an overnight sensation.
Hoffman plays Ben Braddock, a pensive and somewhat shy youth of wealthy Southern California suburbia. Upon completion of his college studies, he's 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.
Bancroft seduces Hoffman who cannot believe the older, married woman--she and her husband Hamilton are his parents' best friends--is pursuing him. Hoffman falls in love with her daughter Ross, and is put in the exhausting position of maintaining relationships with mother and daughter. He finally
decides that Ross will be his wife, although Bancroft is wholly opposed to the union.
This comedy is wonderfully crafted by director Nichols who presents a half-dozen hilarious scenes, including Hoffman escaping badgering advice by submerging himself in the family pool in scuba gear and Bancroft's sudden shift from respectable matron to predatory tease, hiking her skirts
lasciviously and purring promises of smoldering sex which almost put Hoffman 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." 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 people whose destinies were being manipulated by their parents.
The film was an enormous hit, turning Nichols, who'd already scored heavily with WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF?, into one of Hollywood's most important directors. However much of the credit for the innovative and fluid graphics in the film must go to cameraman Surtees, who was allowed a free hand
to experiment widely. For example, the telescopic shot of Hoffman running to prevent the wedding causes him to appear not to be getting anywhere, almost as if he is running in place. All in all, THE GRADUATE is a flawlessly acted and produced film. Look fast for Richard Dreyfuss in his film debut
as a college student.
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