Double feature: For its soundtrack, imagery, and expression of a generation’s possibly prevailing mood, “The Graduate” deserves the adjective “iconic.” It’s also one of several antecedents of a more recent entry in the annals of post-grad (or non-grad) male ennui: “Magic Mike.”
The inarticulate protagonists of both spend most of their respective films as the objects of rapacious (older) females’ desire. Both films present this objectification as emasculating – it disenfranchises their heroes and erodes their wills.
And in both films, the male leads are only awakened from their suspended animation by the spark of their own, internally generated desire for a hard-to-get woman (of their own age.) This desire flips their existential status from object to subject, pursued to (successful) pursuer.
Double-featuring these sun-bleached films also allows for comparison/contrast of the ambitions (put another way, appetites for “hustling”) of two different generations of young adulthood. Funny how what rated as unseemly in one decade shows up later as an accepted precursor to/given of success.
For a marathon: “The Graduate” is 106 minutes long, and it is worth sitting through its first ~103 minutes just to arrive at its spectacular last scene, with a municipal bus backseat as the setting for a sunrise of dawning realizations illuminating Katharine Ross’ beautiful face.
Make it a Double…Feature friend Evil Genius/Zack Kushner links this scene to the whip-smart, profoundly sad “Ghost World” in a characteristically insightful and entertaining post on his Stand By For Mind Control. Here’s an excerpt:
“Without giving the game away, ‘The Graduate’ finishes up like ‘Ghost World,’ on a bus. Is this coincidence — that two films about the completion of school close with their main characters riding the back seat to the future? I’m going with no. It’s an image we all can relate to, we’re growing up and going on, but only because staying is no longer an option.” (Read the full post here.)
It might be more economical to list the films that “The Graduate” didn’t influence, rather than those it did. You could begin your exploration of the film’s many-limbed family tree by checking out the similarly toned “Harold and Maude,” featuring another mumbling, lost young man growing in on himself until he stumbles into a May-December relationship.
A thinner, more remote branch of the family tree links Benjamin’s parents in “The Graduate” to the blithely, aggressively clueless parents in “Heathers,” another opera of alienated expectations.
Play off “Magic Mike”‘s 1980s undertones (shiny decor, grandiose music) by following it up with “Flashdance,” another story of a gold-hearted dancer grasping at a different tier of respectability, and another film whose copious surface somehow withstands deeper interpretation.
(Creative Commons licensed original images courtesy of “aargh” and “Soulrider.222” at Flickr)