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Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Graduate (1967) - the angst of youth

The Graduate was a very successful movie; it seemed to epitomize an entire generation which did not know what to do with life. There was a gap between them and their parents, and the movie displayed this gap pretty incredible and very realistically, although with a comical touch. This was pretty much demonstrable in the sequence when the protagonist appeared in a scuba suit in a party (as desired by his parents) to show off the newest acquisition.
There were many other touches in the movie that are worth remembering, such as the romance with the elder lady (of a different generation - his father's friend's wife), the nonconformity with what he is doing (or not doing) doing in his life and a mismatch with what his parents are expecting, the utterly blissful Simon and Garfunkel soundtrack. Now imagine all this being displayed to America of 1967; The Graduate was an incredible hit. The movie cost $3 million to make, and earned $104 million.

The Graduate (1967) - the angst of youth

The movie earned a total of 7 Academy Award nominations, with 3 of them being acting nominations, for Dustin Hoffman, Bancroft and Ross. The additional nominations were for Best Cinematography, Direction, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Picture. The movie eventually won one award for Best Direction for Mike Nichols.
Why did the movie strike a chord so instantly with people of that generation ? There are many reasons, and quite a few of them are applicable to people even now (in fact, would be applicable no matter whether you are in 5 AD or 2015 AD). Some of the phrases used in the movie became incredibly famous, and would be readily apparent to anyone who has watched the movie such as:
1. "Are you trying to seduce me Mrs. Robinson?" (when the newly graduate Hoffman is being seduced by his father's friend's wife, but is not sure as to how to proceed, or whether what he thinks is actually happening; eventually he does start an affair (clumsily) with her after a few days)
2. "Plastics!" (Just a single word phrase, but with a whole lot of meaning; used by a supposedly wise father's friend as to what to do in life - become more corporate and shallow; decidedly not advice to work in the area of the plastic industry)
3. The movie advertised itself through the following phrase used in the posters "This is Benjamin. He's a little worried about his future." (This phrase summarizes the movie from start to finish).
The movie itself is fairly simple. There is this young graduate from an East Coast College, back home after completion of his college course (and where he did fairly well in most streams); he feels totally adrift and alienated in the existing social and sexual mores, and feels totally out of place in his parent's house and their social circle (and hence escapes to his room often enough when a party is going on).
His parents try to encourage him to lead a normal life, meeting young girls and figuring out a life for himself. Instead, he is seduced (with him behaving very clumsily) by the bored Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft). They eventually set up a hotel room for their liasions (not much emotional involvement, just the pure physical involvement). His parents, unknowing, push him to move to go on dates with Miss Robinson (the daughter of the lady that he is having an affair with).
He does meet the girl (Elaine), and tries to push her off, but is then intrigued. However, Mrs. Robinson is absolutely against this effort, and discourages Benjamin (Dustin Hoffman). Eventually, Benjamin tells Elaine everything, and she is shocked, enough that she moves away from him. Eventually, she agrees to talk to him, but then she moves away to marry another guy.
And thus the final sequence of the movie. he chases Elaine, first driving to Los Angeles from the Bay Area, then driving back, and finally driving to Santa Barbara (doing more than a thousand miles of driving in search of Elaine). He reaches the church where the wedding is going to take place, and manages to interrupt the marriage. She is extremely impressed by this action-oriented, urgent style of Benjamin, and even though she has already gone through the whole wedding ceremony, she runs out on the wedding and runs away with Benjamin to a future about which they do not know much. They really don't even know whether they love each other. And this is how the movie ends, with being able to see them sitting in the bus as it moves away.

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