Director: Mike Nichols
Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft, Katharine Ross
My rating: 7.5 / 10
A disillusioned college graduate finds himself torn between his older lover and her daughter.
What’s to Like:
The Simon & Garfunkel soundtrack.
What’s not to Like:
The jump around symbolic scenes during Benjamin’s first sexual encounter with Mrs Robinson.
An iconic American film that is often parodied or referenced in TV and other movies “The Graduate” saw Mike Nichols win a best director academy being Simon & Garfunkel’s music to a wide audience while introducing a young actor named Dustin Hoffman.
Benjamin Braddock (Hoffman) has just finished college and appears to be experiencing depression and the lack of direction this causes when a friend of his family Mrs Robinson(Anne Bancroft) seducing the at first reluctant Benjamin. This inappropriate relationship seems to cause Benjamin to lose even more focus. Eventually Benjamin is forced to take out the more age appropriate daughter of Mrs Robinson, Elaine Robinson. Benjamin attempts to sabotage the date but upon seeing Elaine breakdown starts to develop feelings for her.
Mrs Robinson understandably upset forces the disclosure of her sexual relationship with Benjamin causing Elaine to flee back to University. This leads to Benjamin following her and what we wold likely call stalking these days but this behaviour works for a time. The Robinson family eventually force Elaine to marry with her boyfriend before Benjamin again chases down Elaine interrupting her wedding. Elaine decides to run away with Benjamin after using a cross to fight off wedding attendees and locking them in the church. The film ends with Elaine and Benjamin slowly realising what they have done. Their looks could be interpreted many ways but I felt it was along the lines of ‘what have we just done’.
The two main characters, Benjamin and Mrs Robinson, are clearly depressed or dealing with mental health issues. They both make bad short term decisions. Mrs Robinson is apparently in a loveless sexless marriage after becoming pregnant with Elaine while at University. Benjamin has no idea what to do next in his life. The majority of films don’t have both main characters with some many flaws and few redeeming features, especially those made before the 1970s. In this way some of the uncertainty and flaws they display make them more ‘real’ people or relatable to some degree. Even Elaine shows the lack of ability to make strong life choices.
The original seduction scene in which the inexperienced Benjamin runs from and the music throughout the movie make this film both enjoyable and different especially for the period it was made.
The movie was nominated for 7 academy awards:⁃
- Best Director – Winner
- Best Picture – nominee
- Best Leading Actor (Dustin Hoffman) – nominee
- Best Leading Actress (Anne Bancroft) – nominee
- Best Supporting Actress (Katharine Ross) – nominee
- Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium – nominee
- Best Cinematography – nominee
If you like monotone acting, an inconsistent story line and hearing the same Simon & Garfunkel songs over and over then this is for you. Whilst the movie included a kick-ass soundtrack (yes, I liked listening to Simon and Garfunkel on repeat) and some interesting cinematic techniques that helped to move the story along swiftly, the movie lacked substance.
Benjamin’s quick change of heart between Mrs Robinson and Elaine, coupled with Elaine’s repulsion and then later unexpected care for Benjamin are unrealistic and make it hard to believe the characters feelings are genuine.
I also had trouble believing Benjamin was an early 20’s graduate student, with his looks resembling that of a 30-year-old man, probably because Hoffman was 29 years of age at the time the movie was filmed. But kudos with the casting of Elaine as her looks are a replica of the older Mrs Robinson. Their relation as fictional characters are about the only believable aspect of the movie.