The Graduate has suffered the burden of being a generation’s signal movie experience, so encrusted with legend that its real strengths and flaws as a film tend to be overlooked. The pleasant surprise of this mixed-bag silver-anniversary home-video release is that the legend is acknowledged but not pandered to.
The package starts with a making-of documentary featuring interviews with stars Dustin Hoffman and Katharine Ross, producer Lawrence Turman, and coscreenwriter Buck Henry (notable absentees: director Mike Nichols and actress Anne Bancroft). Why Columbia TriStar chose to follow this with an obnoxiously useless music video of the Lemonheads covering Simon and Garfunkel’s ”Mrs. Robinson” is a mystery, since ’90s kids can relate to the movie that comes after without any pseudo-hip help.
The Graduate, in fact, remains both pointed and funny. If Nichols’ widescreen visuals (preserved in this letterbox transfer) sometimes seem too clever by half — all the flash cuts and arty framing simply call attention to themselves — the central setup is still loaded, with Hoffman’s emotionally stalled graduate torn between predatory adultress Bancroft and her as-yet-unsullied daughter, Ross. Bancroft in particular gives Mrs. Robinson devastating layers of pain, anger, and regret; you only wish Nichols had given the same depth to the other characters over 30 (though a prime reason adolescents cotton to this movie is that it confirms suspicions that their parents are idiot cartoons).
The real prize arrives after the movie is over, in a long interview with Hoffman, who recounts hilarious anecdotes from the filming (he describes auditioning opposite uptight WASP goddess Ross as a ”Jewish nightmare”). It’s the kind of loose, funny extra that helps dispel any lingering airs of self- congratulation. The Graduate: A- Entire package: B+