The Graduate ★★★★½

The only thing I knew about this movie was the incredibly famous line, "Mrs. Robinson, you're trying to seduce me." That was it. I thought that the line and the seduction was only a short scene in the film. I didn't know the entire film was going to revolve around that. As such, I had no idea what to expect with this movie. I didn't know whether I would think it was overrated or whether I would like it. I didn't know that this film would hook me as much as it did, I didn't know it would resonate with me as much as it did, and I didn't know that this film would be so amazing to me that it might actually make my top 10 personal favorite films of all time. This movie is beyond fantastic. Again, I really want to give this film five stars. However, there are some aspects of the plot that are incredibly dated, there are some cuts between shots that are really obvious (cuts in time are really obvious because the center of the shot moves a bit during the cut, so you can tell there was a cut), some of the music editing is repetitive, and there are continuity errors in some of the lighting in this film (admittedly, my parents noticed those, not me). There are so many minor glaring flaws like that that don't affect the story that I can't give this film five stars. However, that doesn't mean I didn't adore this film.

Just like The Master, all three of the Oscar-nominated actors for this film-- Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft, and Katharine Ross-- are all phenomenal. It took me a while to appreciate Hoffman's performance, but I absolutely think his social awkwardness is completely genuine. Hell, it reminded me a lot of me in some aspects, which was really scary. We both have the same one-track mind and are bad liars, and that can get us into some tricky spots. I loved that about his character. Bancroft gives it her all in this movie and definitely pulls it off. She's not the Glenn-Close-in-Fatal-Attraction type of person, but she definitely has her moments, and she is really great here. Ross' performance is also really great and very likable. There's one scene in particular where the tension of a certain situation just gets to her more and more until she finally just screams to let it all out. That scream sent chills down my spine in the best way. She was really good in this movie.

The thing I loved the most about this movie was the direction and camerawork. Mike Nichols really directs the hell out of this film. Everything about his direction and the camerawork of this movie just feels tight and focused, and I really loved that. I knew I was in for some good, creative directing when the opening scene shows Ben at a party celebrating his achievements: when he's in the middle of the party, a shaky-cam zooms as close as possible to his face to follow him, but when he has a chance to breathe and relax from all of the noise and tight space around him, the camera zooms out and becomes more steady. That kind of attention to detail is why I am so happy Nichols won a directing Oscar for this movie. If the film was to win any Academy Awards, I'm honestly really glad it won for that aspect. I'm completely blown away that this guy directed The Birdcage. That was such a massive shift for him tonally from this film, and I really love that. The direction and camerawork in this film are truly immaculate. There are a couple of scenes where the camera is positioned on the back of a car as the main character drives through the streets. Those shots were incredible. I felt like I was actually in the car. Along with that, there's an action sequence at the end of this film that is exciting, satisfying, and fun at the same time. I just loved it.

There apparently was a musical score composed by Dave Grusin, but the music I paid more attention to was, obviously, the music by Simon and Garfunkel. This music fits so well into the film and really emphasizes the emotional moments on screen. It does slightly annoy me that some songs are used over and over again for, like, five or ten-minute sequences, but at the same time, they fit so well in those sequences that I don't really care. There's a scene where the song "Scarborough Fair / Canticle" plays over a shot where the camera zooms out to look at this bridge that Ben drives across, and I think it choked me up a little. The combination of the beautiful cinematography and the incredible music that both fits well into the movie and is also just really good music in general just really made me happy. I loved the use of music in this film, and I've heard that this film was apparently one of, if not the first film to use basically an entire score of re-used music instead of an instrumental score because films didn't do that a ton back then. That is super, super cool to me, and it still holds up really well.

I think the reason the main character is so likable is that you can see he has a solid moral code at the beginning of the film. Even though he at first rejects Mrs. Robinson and shows he has good instincts, he eventually ends up going back to her, and at that point, the audience knows enough about the character to know that this is not how he would normally act and that they should empathize with him. That's how you make a character like this likable: show that they have good morals and that they usually wouldn't do something like this, but then something comes over them and the audience doesn't want that something to come over them. Does that make sense? Regardless, it's what Nichols and the screenwriters (by the way, this is a great script, too, not in the sense that the lines stand out like in Aaron Sorkin's screenplays, just in the way that it feels natural) did here, and it works beautifully.

Guys, this movie legitimately blew me away. There are some strange editing and continuity errors that are very jarring and some very dated aspects of the way Ben goes about getting the attention of a girl and how quickly she seems to forgive him, but this movie really touched me. It's an incredibly-directed film with great performances, music, and camerawork to boot, and the story is incredibly engaging. The Graduate may just be one of my top 10 personal favorite movies of all time, which must mean I like it a whole lot.

Letter Grade: A

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