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At 50, “The Graduate” still has much to say about youth

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ashbird

The choice, had it been taken, of Robert Redford (a most fine actor) to do the role of Benjamin, would have been disastrous. Mike Nichols was a genius in casting Hoffman. Clumsy, awkward, and short, Hoffman seemed most convincing as a lost young man who was supposed to know what he was doing but not exactly.
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Is the new generation of youth in America different? I don't think so. Not much, IMHO.
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The world has evolved to be a great deal more complicated than 50 years ago. There is a great deal more to know just to survive.
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Yet what youths are fed now has sources such as Facebook and Twitter and Youtube which collectively fabricate a fantasized reality that conflates what is not real with what is real. With the daily bombardment of 140-character nonsense, a group-think emerges where everybody is expected to be different in exactly the same way . Even "rebelliousness" has changed into standard bread loafs that come out from a bread-making machine.
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Some escape this social trending unscathed. They are the ones fortunate enough to have adequate parents, folks who walked the journey and know the steps.

jhoughton1

I love the Economist's short, pithy articles. Most film critics would go on for five pages, showing off their cinematic erudition.

Langosta

One of the top five movies ever made, in my book. Besides timeless characterizations, it captures a time in America that is long gone: Casual affluence in California; wealthy people without a material care in the world living vapid lives. And then along comes young Benjamin Braddock, the Graduate.
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Those too young to experience the '60's missed a times of extremes of good and bad, but of intense energies and soaring spirits. Simon and Garfunkel wrote their most beautiful songs for the soundtrack.
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I don't know what happened to Paul Simon, but a lot of the old rock and roll icons who made their debuts around the time the Graduate Hit the screen are still touring: Carlos Santana, Three Dog Night, The Turtles, The Association, Chicago, Dionne Warwick, America, The Cowslls, and many others are still out there playing the little clubs and casinos. They are in their 70's now, but remarkably spry and healthy, and their music better than ever. Somehow or another they managed to avoid the drugs and other dementias that took out so many rock stars in their primes. Those old cultural icons are going on to their reward. In another few years they'll all be gone, and our last living links to that joyous yet troubled time of "The Graduate" will be gone. Sadly, Dustin Hoffman (Ben Braddock) is in the news again, being one of the "me too" people accused of sexual harassment.

A. Andros

Remember the "Time" cover, remember the movie (saw it on release.) Thought the magazine story was pandering nonsense and the characters (not the actors) in the movie contemptible. Left the theater depressed.
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The generation has yet to be born -- and never will be -- that turns out any better than that of its parents. Benjamin in the movie -- and I knew dozens like him, a half-century ago -- is a narcissistic twit. As far as the snide advice "Plastics" goes, Ben should have taken it. There was nothing but money ahead for it.
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In the final scene Ben sits in the back of the bus with a (now) married woman with a look on his face that is pure baboon. He has no clue -- none at all.
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How to account for the movie's popularity "back when?" Same as with "Time" magazine -- give the young slobs what they want. And, what they wanted was to think they were young rebels -- so many James Deans with a Jim Backus-like father.
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They're now mostly retired accountants about to clog-up the nursing homes.

umghhh

Do mother then daughter - is maybe still legal today but if one complains (which is likely) you will never recover.

A. Andros in reply to Langosta

Here is a vignette from my long-ago youth that you might remember --- or, maybe, it was regional.
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When the men came home they rushed to marry and wanted homes of their own. But, even with the G.I. Bill, it wasn't all that easy. From time to time some ex-G.I. would buy a lot (there was one at the end of our block) and excavate for a foundation. Then, his army buddies showed-up (there was always someone who had poured pads for Quanset Huts -- that sort of thing) and put in the foundation and someone else would do the wiring and plumb the place.
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The basement was then roofed over and the young couple set-up housekeeping in their flat-topped, basement-only "house." The next summer, and then the next, the man could be seen smoking a Luckie, wearing an old undershirt and framing-out the place. After about two years, they had a modest Cape Cod and if the next raise came on-time they would dormer it out to have room for the babies.
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As I say . . . we've forgotten what it was like.

A. Andros in reply to Langosta

"still touring: Carlos Santana, Three Dog Night, The Turtles, The Association, Chicago, Dionne Warwick, America, The Cowslls, and many others are still out there playing the little clubs and casinos."
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I am sure you have listened to Ricky Nelson's "Garden Party." I can see why he'd rather been driving a truck.
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"Wealthy people . . . living vapid lives."
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I remember that "vapid" generation very well -- and so do you. "Vapid' looked pretty good after the Depression, World War II, the postwar turmoil (remember the housing shortage?) and, then, the Korean War.
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If you came ashore at Tarawa and then iived in a furnished basement from '46-'49 while using the G.I. Bill to try and cram four years of college engineering into two years then, yeah . . . "placid" was good.
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We've all forgotten what it was like.

Realize

All I got from this movie was a hard on which never went away. That was the whole point of the movie, apart from talking and defending the decadence of all Western Nations.

Langosta in reply to A. Andros

They were a complex generation. Some were vapid, but there was also both strength and gentleness in that cohort. My father, born in 1926, passed away in 2006. People that hadn't seen him since high school in 1944 called me to tell me how much they loved my Dad when they read his obituary in a big-city paper. So you are right that "vapid" does not fit the character of the majority of that cohort.
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The middle-aged parents in "The Graduate" were stereotypes --- perhaps meant to be seen the way a young an naive person like Benjamin Braddock would have seen them. By the end of the movie, Benjamin was no longer naive.

guest-noewosj in reply to A. Andros

Still the movie is a great one, though apparently went down from the 7th to a more realistic 17th rank in the AFI's list.
It is evident that often most descriptions of a generation contain nothing more than describers' values and expectations, hence as such they must be taken with a pinch of salt.
Your considerations are interesting but maybe for being too much sociological they disregard the cinematic language and aesthetics. There is no doubt that Ben, as well as Elaine, has no clue, and as of today at least for generational reasons, might represent the failure of retiring baby boomers. However it can be a narrative choice.
As previously Uq8Zzjab6d replying to Langosta has very efficiently and sharply written "I think Ben's naïve passivity was replaced at the end by a naïve assertiveness.".
One might even say that it would be a better movie if Ben had finally run away with Mrs. Robinson. That would have meant something, indeed. But Mrs Robinson who is for some aspects the central character of the movie, is already too alcoholic and resigned to fight for it (as well as for teaching anything beyond a sexual affair) and Ben has no clue and courage for moving toward that path.In this sense though maybe not in perfectly accord with article claim, at 50, “The Graduate” still has much to say about youth (and limit or what not expecting from elders, specially in capitalism).