The Graduate

The Graduate Study Guide

The Graduate is a 1967 American comedy/drama film directed by Mike Nichols, based on the 1963 novel of the same name by Charles Webb. The story revolves around Benjamin Braddock, played in a star-making turn by a young Dustin Hoffman, who enters into an affair with his father's business partner's wife, Mrs. Robinson. Played slyly and comically by Anne Bancroft, Mrs. Robinson seduces Benjamin during an aimless and impressionable summer following his graduation from college. Filmed with a wry comedic sensibility, and with stellar performances, Mike Nichols' film perfectly captured the disillusionment of youth in the 1960s, as well as the sexual liberation that was taking place on a cultural level at the time. Benjamin not only sleeps with Mrs. Robinson, but eventually falls into a romance with her daughter, Elaine. Disapproving of their romantic connection, Mrs. Robinson attempts to thwart Benjamin's efforts. When she spreads a damning rumor about Benjamin, Mr. Robinson forbids Ben from courting Elaine. The film ends with Benjamin breaking up Elaine's wedding to another man as he realizes how important she is to him. The two of them board a bus and enter a life of uncertainty.

The movie reflects the affecting novel on which it is based and vividly depicts the recklessness and unsureness of life after graduation. More broadly, it gives a window into the psyche of youth culture in 1960s America. Benjamin's uncertainty about his future leads him to make risky decisions, certainly, but the irony of the film is that in many ways he is simply the victim of circumstance: the hypocritical adults around him, and the society in which he lives, a society that thrives on, as Benjamin's father's friend tells him in a famous line, "plastics!" As much as Benjamin is blamed for the conflict of the movie, Mrs. Robinson is the ultimate culprit: her search for meaning and fun outside of her loveless marriage and suburban dysphoria becoming the inciting incident of the plot. While Benjamin is honest about his disillusionment, Mrs. Robinson denies and represses at every turn.

The movie was received with acclaim by fans and critics at the time. A.D. Murphy of Variety described the movie as a "delightful satirical comedy-drama" and Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times claimed that the movie was the "funniest American comedy of the year." The film received Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Cinematography. Mike Nichols won the Academy Award for Best Director. The film remains an iconic American film, known for its razor sharp depiction of the 1960s, its incredible performances, and its memorable Simon & Garfunkel soundtrack.