This was my first time watching since reading Pictures at a Revolution, which I highly recommend.
I had forgotten just how bracing the filmmaking is here. In the first act in particular, there is one iconic shot and scene after another. The brilliant editing pivots from hypnotically rhythmic to jarringly arrhythmic in a moment’s notice, always keeping us in Benjamin’s headspace.
Simon and Garfunkel are so intertwined with the tone and energy of the movie that it’s tough to even imagine the film without it, like Star Wars without John Williams. Even the much maligned repetition of “Scarborough Fair” serves a purpose, highlighting the monotonous focus of Benjamin’s obsession with Elaine as the second act shifts to the third.
Unfortunately, the script bugged me more this time through than in the past. There’s really two major problems, and they are related. The first is that Benjamin isn’t all that likable. I know his bad behavior and lack of clear morality are part of the point, but my utter disdain for Benjamin really kept me at a distance.
The second problem is that Elaine is too much of a closed book. It’s tough to know whether this ugly love triangle is tragic, or romantic, or hilarious, or somewhere in between, because we know so little of what drives Elaine as compared to Benjamin or Mrs. Robinson.
On the other hand, ambiguity, both moral and narrative, is part of the point of this movie that is so clearly about rejecting norms and easy answers. Rebellion and young adult ennui are timeless phenomena, making the film feel ageless even though it’s so clearly a product of the late ’60s.
The Graduate is not a perfect film. But it is both a great one and an important one, and one I unquestionably treasure.
- Review Project: 2009 Top 100
Exceptionally Good (7/8)
Note: This review was originally published elsewhere. Please excuse brevity or inconsistencies in style. If you have questions or feedback, please leave a comment or contact me.