For the first time, I finally watched the classic movie, The Graduate.
Released one year before I was born, I have seen and heard so many references to this film I felt I had already viewed it, particularly the classic line of “You’re trying to seduce me, Mrs. Robinson,” spoken by Dustin Hoffman framed underneath Ann Bancroft’s exposed leg. Dustin Hoffman, aged 30 at the time, pulls a terrific performance of a stammering, uncertain 21-year-old over his head, being both prodded and pulled by an older, experience, cynical married woman. His awkward misunderstandings in the hotel lobby are funny and sympathetic. Once the affair is consummated, however, Benjamin plays at being a bored and boring playboy, until he finally realizes who he really wants.
The developing relationship with the Robinsons’ daughter, Elaine, seems contrived, and perhaps it is. Pressured to take Elaine out by his parents, Benjamin is hostile and rude, then becomes remorseful when Elaine’s feelings are hurt. His parents raised him better than that. Benjamin then seems to want Elaine to love him as a way of apology. The ending is open to interpretation: after Benjamin rescues Elaine from her possessive parents and a marriage she didn’t really want, the two escape onto a city bus, breathless and giddy. But as the credits roll, their facial expressions relax, and they both seem to be saying, “Now what?” Neither one has a job or a place to live, no real prospects. What are they going to do when they get off the bus? Where are they going to go?
Of course, everyone mentions the iconic soundtrack, filled with old familiar Simon and Garfunkel tunes. So familiar, in fact, I found they were distracting to the movie itself. Like many popular songs, I have no idea what the signature song “Mrs. Robinson,” has to do with anything other than the character’s name. Why is it important to tell her that Jesus loves her more than she will know? Is it because she’s so unhappy she fills herself with brittle affairs?