Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Graduate Review (Classic Write-Up)

A Graduate Of Great Directing
Who doesn't worry about the future? It's such a chaotic element, as unpredictable as a hurricane, it's only natural to be worried about the possibilities that the future could bring. Now that he's graduated from college, Ben Braddock (Dustin Hoffman), is consumed by worrying about what he'll do with his life now. From the first frames of the film, this sort of internal conflict is apparent through the recurring use of close-up shots of Ben's face that emphasize his inner turmoil as well as the similarly prominent use of Art & Garfunkel's The Sound Of Silence.

The interesting combo of visuals and music is a clever way to set up Ben as an engaging protagonist, with such tactics only bolstered by Hoffman's performance that establishes Ben as a geeky, vulnerable fellow without making the introduction of such personality traits feel shoehorned in. It helps that Ben is a consistent fella; even he decides to "sow some oats" and have an affair with Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft), he may smoke cigarettes now, but he's still constantly unsure and meek.

Just look at the scene where the two prepare to sleep together for the first time in a hotel room. Amusingly, Ben's more of a butler than a lover in his mannerisms and dialogue, and that does wonders for keeping his character interesting and entertaining. Actually, much of the film follows the latter adjective to a tee; Mike Nichols directs each scene with such craft (he loves keeping the camera focused on one shot for a long duration of time, and it's a tactic that works like a charm), I couldn't help but be swept up by the films amiable charms.

However, once Mrs. Robinson's daughter, Elaine (Katherine Ross) is introduced, things take a turn for the creepy. Elaine and Ben soon strike up a romance after one solitary date, and soon after that, a reveal of Ben and Mrs. Robinson's affair to Elaine leaves the romance obliterated. Soon after, Ben stops by Elaine's house occasionally to watch her, which was creepy already. But then he follows her to her college, chases down a bus she's riding on, further follows her to a zoo and doesn't ever leave her alone.

In another film, these sequences would be depicted as some kind of psychopath stalker, but the feature still tries to retain it's easygoing vibe from the earlier, more successful portions of the movie, and to say it doesn't work is a gross understatement. Don't get me wrong; it's still a well-filmed movie, with Nichols never putting even subpar work into pivotal elements like composition and framing. Plus, the editing by Sam O'Steen is similarly excellent through the entire duration of the film, but those kind of positive attributes just aren't enough to excuse the creepy mishmash of a finale that undermines an otherwise really entertaining and enjoyable film. I'll say this though; the very last minute of the film, showing Ben and Elaine on a bus to the tun of The Sound Of Silence has a nice morose tone to it that ends the film on an unexpectedly potent note.

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