What film, in a 100 level cinema class full of fresh-faced university students, could be a better candidate to screen and assign viewer reflection than Mike Nichols' The Graduate? We've all been in Benjamin Braddock's shoes. We all continue to play this role, asking, "What's next for me?", "Where do I go?", or even "WHAT DOES THIS ALL MEAN?". Life, man.
While Braddock, played by Dustin Hoffman, is a college grad, these woes are not exclusive to his age bracket. As a class full of recent high school graduates, we struggle with the same internal dialogue. Bottom line, Graduate's coming-of-age plot is nothing new, but enjoyably relateable cinema.
Remarkable enough to the point of being unavoidable in any response to the film is the steamy scenes between Hoffman and co-star Anne Bancroft, who plays the role of Mrs. Robinson. Insert the corny, lyrical coos of Simon and Garfunkel here. (Hey, Mrs. Robinson.) Through combination of undeniable chemistry between Hoffman and Bancroft and Nichols' spectacular cinematography, the sexy scenes that litter the earlier half of the film are shockingly believable and should resonate with any audience member. Coming from a 1967 American film, the blatant, shameless relationship between young Benjamin and his seductive cougar counterpart was the opposite of traditional romance on the big screen at that time. This progressiveness in cinema contributes undoubtedly to The Graduate's longevity.
The only question I have is whether this scheme works as a novelty for film goers, or if the steamy scenes actually help the film achieve a stronger narrative. Is it scandal for the sake of scandal? It could be argued that the affair is Robinson's release from a loveless marriage and greatly contributes to the film's progression, but I think the explicitness could easily be seen as an intentional boundary-pushing to keep the viewer's interest.
Ask anyone what the most iconic image of the film is, it's probably this: