This is the movie that made Dustin Hoffman’s name. It didn’t do director Mike Nichols any harm either. It is a great comedy, mocking in turns the values and expectations of both the older and younger generation.
Ben Braddock (Hoffman) returns to his comfortable California suburb after graduating college. His parents and their friends hassle him to get on with his life – get a good job, marry, settle down and become just like them. To his disbelief, his parents friend and neighbor, Mrs Robinson (Bancroft), seduces him. He proves to be pretty naive at conducting an affair:
Mrs Robinson:Benjamin, isn’t there something you’d like to tell me?
Benjamin: Yes, I want to thank you for this.
Mrs Robinson: No, the room number. Wouldn’t you like to tell me the room number?
He falls in love with her daughter and much comedy is wrung out of the situation as he tries to keep both relationships going. Not surprisingly, Mrs Robinson is opposed to the match with her daughter. In a comic rescue by bus, Ben steals Elaine back as she stands at the altar with another man.
Young audiences cheered the final scene as an act of rebellion: the young couple defying the wishes and manipulations of their parents. Older, wiser audiences know, as Nichols intended they should, that Ben and Elaine will end up just like their parents.
For the technically minded readers: use of overlap sound cut is used in order to alter or enrich unrelated visual images, to link action from scene to scene,and to enhance the pace. Watch the middle section of the film, from Benjamin’s seduction by Mrs. Robinson to his meeting with Elaine, consists of a time-flow segment. Look at his idle, almost paralytic life by the swimming pool at home. Benjamin hoists himself out of the pool onto a rubber raft; as he makes this move a cut is made and he is shown rolling over on top of Mrs. Robinson in bed. In traditional editing each picture cut would have matched with a sound cut. In this film however the editor allows the sound to overlap into the incoming scene. By such overlap emotional and intellectual overtones of two disparate scenes, Benjamin’s comatose existence at home with an emotional affair in the hotel room, tie up the mismatching.
(ref: film and literature-Fred H. Marcus-1971)
Director: Mike Nichols
Ben Braddock: Dustin Hoffman
Mrs Robinson: Anne Bancroft
Elaine Robinson: Katharine Ross
Mr Braddock: William Daniels
Mr Robinson: Murray Hamilton
Mrs Braddock:Elizabeth Wilson
Berkeley Student: Richard Dreyfuss
* Best Director
* Best Picture
* Best Adapted Screenplay
* Best Actress (Bancroft)
* Best Actor (Hoffman)
* Best Supporting Actress (Ross)
* Best Cinematography
The witty screen play, adapted by Buck Henry (who played the room clerk) and Calder Willingham from Charles Webb’s novel got an Oscar nomination but lost out to Stirling Silliphant’s screenplay for In the Heat of the Night. Richard Dreyfuss makes his Hollywood debut here in a minor role.
The Simon and Garfunkel song, Mrs Robinson, escaped award nomination but enjoyed as much success as the film.
Dustin Hoffman was Oscar nominated but he goes on to better things in other movies (and a lot worse too). His Benjamin is a nerdy creep whose get-up-and-go gets up at the wrong time to go to the wrong place.
Anne Bancroft in The Graduate
Out of many good performances, Anne Bancroft’s stands out as the most memorable characterization. She is darkly funny, tired and nasty – the quintessence of what 25 years of middle class suburban motherhood can do to an intelligent woman. It is Mrs Robinson, not Benjamin, who is the dangerous subversive here. Her performance is even more incredible when you realize she is only six years older than Dustin Hoffman.
‘The Graduate’ (I can see clearly now) is a lesser movie. It comes out of a specific time in the late 1960s when parents stood for stodgy middle-class values, and “the kids” were joyous rebels at the cutting edge of the sexual and political revolutions.
~ Roger Ebert, on the 30 year anniversary