I’d heard a lot of buzz about “The Graduate”—especially after being featured in “(500) Days of Summer”—but didn’t know too much about it until I finally watched it this weekend. Though I don’t think the plot was quite fleshed out enough and the characters weren’t very sympathetic, the cinematography was impressive and the uncertainty of youth well-captured.
"The Graduate" follows Benjamin Braddock’s post-college quandary. Braddock (played by a young Dustin Hoffman) spends his time after graduation sort of stagnating, without a real direction, wondering why he just spent four years devoted to academics and trying to figure out what it means for him now (the mood well-represented by Simon & Garfunkel’s musically-inspired melancholia).
Though you don’t get much of a chance to get a feel for Hoffman’s idealistic character before getting thrust into the action, you do get a sense of his perplexity. He’s a good person who has done what he thought (and has been told) best but seemingly received nothing from it of value.
Though the ending appears to be happy on the surface, there’s no clear resolution (this is the part “(500) Days” comments on). After narrowly escaping a wedding precession, Braddock and the object of his affection, Elaine, board a bus and reflect on what the audience supposes is their future. At first, smiles abound but gradually fade into looks of neutrality and subtle uncertainty. They ponder: is there really a clear right choice and happy ending? Is this it?
If nothing else, the film also causes us to reexamine our own futures and the choices we’ve made that have led us up to this point in our lives. It makes us question our motivations and plans. What do we really want? What's not so important? Where do we want to devote our energy and time? What risks are worth taking?
Ultimately—and especially as a college student drawing nearer and nearer to graduation—I’m left with the importance of balancing the academic with the emotional; working hard to succeed in school to secure a stable future while doing my best to keep relationships and family atop my priority list. Trying to be flexible with a lot of inevitable uncertainty, but still reaching for the ideal.
Overall, “The Graduate” is worth a watch and hopefully causes you to have a well-placed introspection as well.
(Here’s one of the Simon & Garfunkel tunes predominant on the soundtrack.)