Why I should have seen it already:
The Graduate is a product of the disillusioned youth of its time, boasts a hit music single, and is AFI’s seventh greatest film of all time. It’s also Dustin Hoffman’s breakthrough role.
Now that I have:
Meet Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman). He’s just graduated from college with honors. His super rich parents are proud of him and all his achievements. They buy him a new car! They buy him a SCUBA diving suit! He doesn’t have to work and spends his time thinking about what graduate school he wants to go to while drinking beer and hanging out by the pool. He doesn’t have a care in the world.
Naturally, he is miserable.
Ben is portrayed by Hoffman as a quiet, polite, respectful, but overly emotional dude. A lot of the comedy comes from him awkwardly dealing with his parents super happy friends. Then one of his parents super happy friends starts seducing him. The famous Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft)!
Fortunately, Mr. Robinson shows up to interrupt the seduction. Clueless about what his wife is up to, he talks to Ben about how he shouldn’t be tied down during this point of his life, how he should be having as much sex with as many women as possible. Ho! Irony! Then he suggests that Ben should go on a date with his daughter. Ho! –Wait, what?
Ben originally is skeeved out by Mrs. Robinson’s advances but after getting an awesome SCUBA suit from his parents (Man, I only got a couple of shirts for my 21st birthday!) he decides his life is dumb and he should just have sex with the lady.
What follows is the rest of a movie about a couple having an affair. They realize they have nothing in common and the affair is only distracting each other from their own unhappiness. The End.
But THEN, another movie starts up right away. It’s a wacky romantic comedy, but the director made the mistake of using the same characters from the first film. Also, in this second film, Ben turns insane.
He follows Mrs. Robinson’s daughter Elaine (Katharine Ross) back to her college after a single date, hoping to marry her. This is after she finds out about his affair with her mother. Elaine is originally very frowny with Ben because Mrs. Robinson told Elaine that he raped her. Ben goes “Nuh-uh, she was asking me for it,” and Elaine decides to believe the crazy-possibly-a-rapist-stalker over her own mom.
Then a bunch of people start breaking into Ben’s bedroom for various reasons. My favorite being Mr. Robinson, who manages to both yell at and be scared of Ben. Anyway, turns out Elaine’s going to get married. This is the very day after she told Ben she might marry him!
Elaine is also insane.
Realizing this, Ben knows that he and her were meant for each other and drives to her wedding. He gets there too late to stop the marriage but not too late to cause a scene and starts tapping on an window really quickly. And he yells. This combination of tapping and yelling is just the thing Elaine has been looking for in a man her whole life. She looks around to her family and new husband and sees they are all busy making silly faces. So she decides to leave them to their craft and runs after Ben.
Ben beats up Elaine’s dad. Elaine gets smacked in the face by her mom. It is the perfect wedding.
Then Ben uses a cross to lock everyone in the church so he and Elaine can escape. They get on a bus, like right away, because apparently at this town buses are running at two minute intervals, and drive off to parts unknown. The film ends with the classic scene of Ben and Elaine coming down from their euphoric high and realizing they don’t know what to do next.
It’s a shame the movie get’s so concerned with romance in the third act. Ben’s love for Elaine is never believable. They go on a single date, during which he takes her to a stripper bar, makes her cry, they kiss, eat hamburgers, and Ben says he likes talking to her.
Strippers and hamburgers is all there is to their relationship!
Ben’s relationship with Mrs. Robinson was far more interesting and I wanted to see more of them. The best scenes of this film were of those two, Ben awkwardly dealing with Mrs. Robinson’s pragmatic attitude. There’s a scene of them lying in bed talking about Mrs. Robinson’s marriage that makes the film in my opinion. Hoffman and Bancroft really do great things with these characters. It’s a huge bummer the film turns Mrs. Robinson into a wicked mother character once Ben turns crazy.
You can’t really blame her for wanting to keep Ben from her daughter. After all: Ben is insane. It’s hard to look at her actions and think “Man, what a witch” like the film wants you to.
The directing of this film is the weakest component if you ask me. Certain scenes are staged in really rigid, distant ways. It makes the whole scene feel out of sync with the rest of the film.
I really liked this movie until Elaine was introduced.