Top 10 Movies: #6 – The Graduate

I have to admit, part of my deep affection for movie #6 on my personal Top 10 list, the 1967 Mike Nichols film The Graduate, comes from the fact that at my alma mater, Swarthmore College, they were in the habit of showcasing it every year prior to the first day of classes.  So my first time seeing this painfully funny saga of an aimless, disaffected, unemployed college graduate was immediately before I started my first day of college classes.  Not sure what they were trying to do there, but I fell in love with the film and haven’t fallen out of love with it yet.

Ultimately, this is an existential humanist parable, with strong echoes of Kierkegaard’s Narrative, but without the same sense of a breakthrough to a higher level of meaning.  Dustin Hoffman stars as the title character, Benjamin, a bright young recent college graduate who has excelled throughout his life at following the path others have set for him, but who flounders when faced with the task of making choices for himself.  As he drifts through a hazy summer, he crosses paths with the iconic Mrs. Robinson (an incandescent Anne Bancroft in her most famous role), a predatory older woman, the wife of one of his parent’s friends, who is seeking to escape the misery of her unfulfilled life with the help of a young stud, willing or unwilling.

After somehow ending up on a date with his lover’s daughter, a young woman his own age, Benjamin suddenly gains a sense of purpose, but his new attempts to wrest control of his own destiny meet with resistance at every turn.  Filled with stellar performance, indelible set pieces, and a fantastic Simon and Garfunkle soundtrack, The Graduate maps the exact moment those good, straight-arrow suburban kids of the 1950’s matured into the dissolute, iconoclastic existential seekers of the 1960’s.

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