Picks and Pans Review: Spotlight On...

updated 02/17/1997 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/17/1997 01:00AM

>The Graduate

HERE'S TO YOU, MRS. ROBINSON

FIRST, STAR WARS AND THE FORCE. Now, Plastics—as in, "Ben, I want to say one word to you, just one word: plastics." Yes, 30 years after Dustin Hoffman scuba-dived into cinematic history (actually it was his parents' pool) in the classic tale of love, lust and the generation gap, The Graduate is scheduled for rerelease next month in several major cities.

Screenwriter Buck Henry, 66, who went on to codirect Heaven Can Wait, recalls the project as a Hollywood breakthrough that almost never got made. "The industry was just starting to break free of traditional bonds," says Henry. What bothered several studios (before Embassy finally released the film) was the plot, in which Hoffman, as a recent college grad, sleeps with the wife of his father's business partner (Anne Bancroft), only to fall for her daughter (Katharine Ross). Out there, yes. But also appealing. Says Howard Suber, chair of a UCLA film program: "It's about wandering through alienation and then finding a purpose in life through love—and that resonates."

A smash, The Graduate took in $110 million and ignited the careers of Hoffman and director Mike Nichols, who won an Academy Award for the film. But it left Ross, who earned an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress, a bit jaded. "When you do something that good," says the semi-retired screen star, now 54 and a full-time mom to daughter Cleo, 12, "it's a shock to find out almost nothing else out there is like it."

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