Mike Nichols’ coming-of-age comedy not only launched the careers of fresh-faced Dustin Hoffman and Katherine Ross, it also helped to define a generation of baby boomers. A masterpiece of deadpan humour laced with irony and wit which speaks volumes on the mindset of its protagonist without the usual bombastic sermons. Numerous encounters with adults only serve to heighten Ben’s confusion while images of pools and aquarium-bound fish (and that famous alfa romeo) serve up ambivalent metaphors as he finds himself torn between the expectations of his WASP parents and his own innate desire to be something different. Aside from its award-winning script and timeless score of Simon & Garfunkel ballads however, the enduring success of Nichols’ film ultimately rests on the sheer star power of his cast especially the pairing of Hoffman’s hesitantly monotone naif and Ann Bancroft’s predatory cougar. He has also given cinema two of its most iconic scenes: the surreal hotel seduction between Ben and Mrs. Robinson, and Ben’s crashing of Elaine’s wedding. Certainly dated, but an American classic nevertheless.

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