The Graduate

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“You’re trying to seduce me, Mrs. Robinson … Aren’t you?” Glamorous, funny, sexy (coo, coo ca-choo, indeed) and sad, The Graduate is an emotional touchstone for an entire generation, not to mention a crowd-pleasing late-‘60s harbinger of the “New Hollywood” studio films that would storm the movie industry in the early ‘70s. Here we have cleverly-crafted student unrest in bourgeois clothing, as young Dustin Hoffman’s Benjamin Braddock, adrift after college, is craftily seduced by a woman of his parents’ generation: the fabulous Anne Bancroft’s icily-assured friend-of-the-family Mrs. Robinson (actually only six years Hoffman’s senior). So it’s understandable that Ben’s dream girl Katharine Ross is a bit startled to learn that he’s been sleeping with … her mother! Arguably, no other movie of the ‘60s — not even Bonnie and Clyde or Easy Rider — more successfully turned counterculture angst into popular culture. The biggest box office surprise of the decade, an Oscar-winner for second-time director Mike Nichols, and a revved-up vehicle for Hoffman’s star-making breakout role, The Graduate darkly and humorously captured the restlessness and ennui of the era. Bouyed by a razor sharp screenplay from Calder Willingham and Buck Henry (who also nails a hilarious cameo as a hotel desk clerk) and a legendarily evocative score by pop duo Simon & Garfunkel, this remains one of the most beloved classics of the American screen, filled with so many instantly-iconic moments (“Plastics!”), it’s almost like a cinematic greatest hits compilation of the counterculture generation.