The New Hollywood or Post-Classical Hollywood period of film began in the mid 1960s and ran until the early 1980s. Directors at this time were younger, many out of college with degrees in film, well polished in their craft. Movies of this period tended to me aimed at a younger generation. The subject matter and style strayed slightly from Hollywood classics and gave these films a fresh new feel, which attracted young viewers at a low point in box office sales. Mike Nichol’s “The Graduate” is one of the most successful films of this period and one of the most widely acclaimed of all time.
Like most Post-Classical Hollywood films “The Graduate” is geared towards a younger audience, it can be considered one of the first “teen” movies. The film is centered a round Benjamin Braddock, a 21-year-old who is “a little worried about his future”, a problem that many young Americans could and can relate to. Also his sexual escapades and interesting love life would attract anyone, especially young people to this film. The movie takes on very serious topics and themes such as what to do with one’s future, having an affair with a married woman, marriage, and communication issues while lightening the mood with comedy. This mixing of genre makes the film a more typical “date movie” for younger audiences it is a combination of drama, romance and comedy. Mixing of genres was common in all Post-Classical Hollywood films, an influence from French New Wave filmmaking.
The ending to “The Graduate” is what truly sets it apart from typical Hollywood films. Benjamin finally takes initiative and does something, he wins back his woman and they ride off together into the sunset. it seems to be the triumphant “love conquers all” ending that everyone hopes for. Usually this would be the happy ending everybody watching wanted. But this film stays true to reality; it is honest about what would really happen. In the last shot of the film they sit next to each other on the bus as it drives away and they are smiling about their accomplishment, slowly their smiles begin to fade, Ben’s first and as Elaine looks to Ben to share the moment and sees that he does not look back to her and his joy quickly faded, her smile disappears as well and they have sort of a “Now what?” look on their face as “The Sound of Silence” fades the movie into the credits. “Now what?” is right. They both just left behind their families and everything they had for each other, Elaine was not even positive she wanted to marry Ben. Ben has never been sure about anything in his life, what makes this any different, who knows if their new love can last, most likely it won’t. Plus, Ben was too late, Elaine is technically married already, the ceremony ended. This open-ended and sort of downbeat ending is true to the New Hollywood genre and true to reality. It is a satirical take on all of the perfect endings portrayed in Hollywood. Benjamin is left in the same place he was in the beginning of the movie, still unsure of his future but now with a bride, so he is probably worse off than he started now being responsible for two, nothing need be said, “The Sound of Silence” reinforces this.