The Graduate (Mike Nichols, 1967)
This started off so well. Right before Benjamin decides to take Mrs. Robinson up on her offer, there's this great shot of him at the bottom of a swimming pool in a diving suit. We have an interesting character here with Benjamin : he's a young, well, graduate, with a promising future ahead of him, only that's his problem : he's not sure what that future should be, and the idea of a world full of possibilities is making him sick. Great, I'd watch a movie about that. Everything in the first 20 minutes seemed to be about that, with the camera constantly focused on him as he's barely listening to people congratulate him and talking about his future. I was even on-board with the Mrs.Robinson thing, despite Hoffman being so clearly much older than his character was supposed to be for it to really work. Mrs. Robinson is after all a pretty intriguing character at first, a sort of mirror of Benjamin's malaise : she's full of confidence where he's perpetually nervous, but she seems just as miserable as he is.
And then... the rest of the movie happens. For me, its downfall starts with Benjamin and Elaine's first date. Well, maybe even before that, come to think of it, as it wasn't clear at all to me why everyone suddenly seemed so intent on forcing him to go on his date with a character we hadn't even heard about, much less seen, before. That could have been fine, but Elaine, as it turns out, is a non-character. She has no motivations, no personality, nothing. All you need to do to make her fall in love with you is apparently to drag her to some sort of strip club and publicly humiliate her, she loves that. Seriously, that scene was insane, and it is crazy that the movie wants us to believe in a relationship that starts in those terms. I guess Benjamin apologizes for it, but since his behaviour after that is that of a creepy obsessive stalker, I don't think that's really enough.
Oh, there's the iconic soundtrack too, which is incredibly on-the-nose, but at least it's fun and it distracts from the horrible melodrama the film devolves into, with characters doing things for no other reason than : drama ! Maybe I should give Nichols a little credit for the final shot, where we see that maybe, maybe this isn't actually going to work out between those crazy kids, but it's too little, too late. Rarely have I seen a movie waste interesting characters so fast.
I do realize this is pretty acclaimed though, so I am eager to hear why this film seems to work for so many.