I was too young at 13 for The Graduate when it was released in 1967, and by the time I caught up with it on a 13-inch TV in a 1970s dorm room, in a hideous-looking, pan-and-scan and editedversion, , I was merely baffled by its reputation. Seeing the film as Mike Nichols originally intended, it’s an altogether different experience. However, it now seems a little more important as a key work in an overall picture of film and as a time capsule of its era than as a movie in its own right.
Movies had taken a different turn in the mid-1960s thanks to the impact of Richard Lester and the Beatles — and all that came with them and after them. The Graduate is the first American film to tap into that, but it does so in a bitter, disaffected, disillusioned manner. Rather than ape its Brit cousins, it put a new, very American spin on them — evidenced in its Simon and Garfunkel soundtrack — that was uniquely grounded in the success ethic and U.S. materialism. It spoke directly to American audiences in a way the quirkier British movies didn’t — and it launched a type of film that is with us even today. Think not? Look at the work of David O. Russell and Wes Anderson and think again.
Promoted as a comedy, it’s really a rather sour — and sometimes too smug — indictment of a certain lifestyle and mindset. And it’s a film that realizes the usual reaction to that mindset is no answer in itself, evidenced in its happy ending (cribbed from Harold Lloyd’s 1924 silent Girl Shy), which goes past the happiness to confusion and a sense of hopeless despair.
– reviewed by Ken Hanke