Analyze a Movie: The Graduate

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For this week’s assignment we are supposed to analyze one of our favorite movie and discuss how it represents the qualities of a compelling movie. There were several movies that I had considered using for this assignment, such as The Godfather or Forest Gump, but I finally decided to go with The Graduate. I saw this movie for the first time a few years ago and it immediately became one of my favorite movies. The story follows a recent college graduate named Ben, played by a young Dustin Hoffman, who is concerned about his future and somehow enters into an affair with a family friend, Mrs. Robinson. Tension later rises as he eventually falls in love with Mrs. Robinson’s daughter, Elaine. For the purpose of this assignment, I will discuss the genre of The Graduate and how key scenes in the movie use some of the elements described by Roger Ebert in his article “How to Read a Movie.”

According to IMDB, The Graduate falls under the genres Comedy, Drama, and Romance. I agree with this classification because the movie has elements of all three genres. Although the movie does not make you laugh out loud constantly, there are several humorous scenes involving Dustin Hoffman that utilize the Cringe Comedy Trope. While it may seem like Ben has it all (fancy car, good grades, athletic accolades), he struggles through several awkward situations during the movie. A good example is the scene where Ben is reserving a room for him and Mrs. Robinson at a hotel. This is a simple task, however his nervousness shows in his behavior and he is paranoid that people will discover his affair. Here is a clip from that scene:

The movie also has elements of Drama such as The Reveal trope, which uses a pivotal scene that changes the nature of the plot all together. In The Graduate, suspense has been building ever since Ben slept with Mrs. Robinson. The audience is constantly wondering when the affair is finally going to cause problems and how the secret will be revealed. After Ben goes out on a date with Elaine, despite promising he wouldn’t, Mrs. Robinson threatens to tell Elaine about the affair. Frightened by the prospect of losing Elaine, Ben decides to tell her himself, as seen in this clip:

The final genre, Romance, is best represented at the end of the movie when Ben interrupts Elaine’s marriage. The Race For Your Love trope is represented in the last 10 minutes of the movie when Ben travels across the country to save Elaine from a forced marriage:

According to Roger Ebert, directors choose certain camera angles, shadows, and spacing to represent a character’s emotions and also elicit those of the audience. There were several scenes in The Graduate that I could identify the directors technique. A good example is the famous screencap of Ben as seen through the legs of Mrs. Robinson:

The angle for this shot perfectly represents what is going on in the scene. Mrs. Robinson has been ordering Ben around the entire night, using his politeness to manipulate him. In the photo, Ben is the focal point as the story’s protagonist, with a smile that represents his innocence and helplessness. Mrs. Robinsons overarching leg represents her dominance over Ben and her ability to manipulate him. The dark shadow of her leg represents the evil in her intentions, which contrasts with the lighting shown on Hoffman’s character.

Another good example is the revealing scene mentioned previously:

The director angles his shot to show Elaine at the foreground and Mrs. Robinson in the background, representing the present and that past. Mrs. Robinson also looks very tired and worn down, showing a depressed and conflicted emotion, which Elaine looks very young and cheerful. The picture also shows Mrs. Robinsons stalking nature, and herĀ  desire to control Ben by prohibiting from seeing Elaine.

Overall The Graduate is an amazing movie with excellent writing, great acting (this movie jumpstarted Dustin Hoffman’s career), and outstanding cinematography. This movie is often classified as a classic and is number 17 on AFI’s list of the 100 Best movies of all time.

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