Before we get too far, let me explain myself. I love The Graduate. I was fortunate enough to experience the film for its first widescreen home release. This was a big thing in the nineties, as now you could see more of the scenes and moments that really matter. It preserved the cinematography of the film. Ironically enough, must people hated these presentations, as they felt it cut off the top and the bottom. Now our TVs are present in this ratio. I saw the film just when I started college. It was sort of a wake up call as to what may lay waiting for me after graduation. I visited the film from time to time in college and grew to sympathize more and more with Ben Braddock (Dustin Hoffman). When you could place music on your cell phone, I made it a point to have Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence” on me so I could enact the scene at the airport. I figured I hummed it already, now I could just hear for it real. In college, my roommate and I even recreated a scene for his film project. Yes, I was fan.
Here I am now, closer to the age of Mr. Robinson (Murray Hamilton) and critiquing the film that has literally been with me all my adult life. To top it all off, I am going to review the Criterion Blu-ray. The first thing that pops out at me is how in shadow all our major characters are. Literally, they talk in almost every scene with shadows covering their faces. Perhaps it was years of watching it on VHS that I never noticed that aspect of the film. When you watch a new “4K digital restoration” you expect to see more. Instead, I noticed several things. Our cast of characters is shrouded in darkness. This could be because the world in which they inhabit is not a happy place. I’ll keep believing that because I love the film. In learning that Anne Bancroft (Mrs. Robinson) and Dustin Hoffman (Ben) are, in real life, only 6 years apart, I think the director was trying to hide their ages. In looking closely at their faces, I also notice how right off the bat, Ben is uber tan. Sure, twenty minutes into the film when it has been weeks of him laying around the pool, I expected it, but right off the plane? Having gone to an East Coast school, I was never tan, ever.
What I mentioned above may be technicalities, but I also notice a huge plot hole. Elaine Robinson (Katharine Ross) and Ben go out on one date and instantly hit it off, enough that Ben has his sights on marrying her. We can believe the Romeo and Juliet scenario in most films, but in this film, Ben’s sticky situation is just too much of a nightmare. I believe Ben being in love with Elaine, finally finding that one person he connects with, but all out love and marriage? Perhaps if there was more to their own story. We are given a crappy all night date that turns into a great one. Elaine learns the truth and runs back to college. Ben then becomes her stalker and it turns out she went off and got engaged to someone else. My sympathy is more with Elaine, but the story reveals that her fiancé is a heel as well.
Films can change over time, yet can remain classics, Watch Lawrence Kasdan’s The Big Chill (1983, Spine #720) in your twenties and watch it again in your thirties. The film has a very different meaning. I still sympathize with Ben Braddock. I am still trying to figure it all out. Today, however, I think I need a bit more realism and character development for a story about a graduate who sleeps with his dad’s partner’s wife and tries to woo their daughter. If anything, I think I need a greater real life age separation between my two lead characters.
New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
Optional 5.1 surround remix, approved by director Mike Nichols, presented in DTS-HD Master Audio on the Blu-ray
Audio commentary from 2007 featuring Nichols in conversation with filmmaker Steven Soderbergh
Audio commentary from 1987 featuring film scholar Howard Suber
New interview with actor Dustin Hoffman
New conversation between producer Lawrence Turman and screenwriter Buck Henry
New interview with film writer and historian Bobbie O’Steen about editor Sam O’Steen’s work on The Graduate
Students of “The Graduate,” a short documentary from 2007 on the film’s influence
“The Graduate” at 25, a 1992 featurette on the making of the film
Interview with Nichols by Barbara Walters, from a 1966 episode of NBC’s Today show
Excerpt from a 1970 appearance by singer-songwriter Paul Simon on The Dick Cavett Show
PLUS: An essay by journalist and critic Frank Rich