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Forty years after graduation

Posted at 11:45 AM on November 24, 2006 by Euan Kerr

Watching "The Graduate" in 2006, almost four decades after it was released, is a wonderous experience, particularly when you do it with several generations of the family.

Being old enough to remember the fuss about the film's subject matter when it came out, it's amusing to see that Mike Nichols' tale of the confused college grad seduced by the aggressively matter-of-fact married older woman is now just rated PG.

Calder Willingham and Buck Henry's script is filled with memorable lines, and Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) and Mrs Robinson (Anne Bancroft) are both simultaneously attractive and repellant enough as characters to make them fascinating.

It's striking to see how much the young Hoffman lying on the air mattress in the pool hiding behind his sunglasses adopts poses which have now become trademark Tom Cruise.

You also have to wonder if the film was made now whether it would be Mrs Robinson's story. (I don't think we ever learn her first name do we?) She is certainly the most intriguing character in the whole sordid tale.

After we watched it last night, most of the family sat and chatted about it for some time. (Sarah the 18 year old enjoyed about two-thirds of it and then fell asleep, as over-worked high school seniors often seem to do.)

While we all enjoyed the flick, we split generationally on its artistic merit. My parents in law who saw it when it came out and enjoyed it then, felt it was a period piece which contained great scenes, but had not really held up over time.

The Beloved and I disagreed, seeing it as a story which reflects a specific period in recent US history which, while hugely significant, sometimes took itself a little too seriously. We enjoyed how the film poked fun at the self-involvement of the 60's.

Malcolm the (soon to be) 16 year old thought the whole thing was illogical, and he couldn't understand in the latter half of the film how Ben and Mrs Robinson's daughter Elaine even thought they had a relationship given how incapable they seemed of communicating.

It was a great conversation, the kind that movie dweebs like me claim is one of the primary arguements for having people see films together in cinemas. Ands there we were in the living room.

No doubt there will be some sort of special "The Graduate" boxed set out in the new year to mark the 40th anniversary. Beat the rush though. See it now. Then let me know how you think it holds up.

November 2006
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