While viewing a film that has been labeled a Romantic Comedy, one would expect to hear light-hearted music and laughter, not "The Sound of Silence."" However, it is this song, Paul Simon's indictment of modern man's isolation, that introduces the highly acclaimed 1968 "Romantic Comedy- The Graduate. This film has been applauded as an introspective masterpiece, a credit to its director, Mike Nichols, and to its cast, including Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft, and Katharine Ross. However, while the film will undoubtedly create an impact on all who view it, it fails to establish the general sentiment of a Romantic Comedy. The humor in the film, while clever and effective, takes on a much more cynical tone than is typical of this genre, and the relationships do not develop into true romance. Although elements of the movie are consistent with those of other Romantic Comedies, The Graduate really does not belong with other films of this genre.
The film is set in the late 1960's and takes place in a wealthy neighborhood in Southern Los Angeles, and later, on the Berkeley campus in Northern California. This setting is typical of a Romantic Comedy "an upper-class neighborhood in a big city is almost always the home of this type of film. Correspondingly, the iconography in The Graduate allows it to be identified with other Romantic Comedies. The dinner parties, dating, sex, and wedding-scenes that are present in the film are all characteristic of this genre.
Again adhering to the style of the early screwball comedies, The Graduate establishes its male protagonist as a vulnerable young man who allows himself to be seduced by a much more experienced and uninhibited female figure. Benjamin Braddock (Hoffman) is a college graduate who has returned home for the summer. Despite his stunning resume, Benjamin is incredibly nave, and has no idea what to look for in his future. Mrs. Robinson (Bancroft), the wife of his father's business partner, is much more assertive than Benjamin, and is unquestionably the more seductive of the two.