I’d like to make a few points about The Graduate, the classic 1967 film, starring Dustin Hoffmann, Anne Bancroft, and Katharine Ross. Great films make you feel something intensely, maybe it’s horror or terror or happiness. The Graduate made me intensely uncomfortable. Hoffmann’s Benjamin just seemed so out of place in his own home, within his family and in his own skin. He stands at the precipice of starting adulthood and is literally drifting instead of stepping forward. He is seen by others as an empty vessel waiting for someone to steer him into a purpose. At the same time, Benjamin wants no part of the ordinary, plastic world of his parents. Even after he finally manages to win Elaine over and they escape her wedding in the back of the bus, he again seems so lost, as if he’s wondering, now what? Has he escaped from or fell into the trap of the ordinary.
Dustin Hoffmann was 29 or so when the film was made and Anne Bancroft was about 36. Benjamin states he is 20 and Mrs. Robinson is presumably in her 40’s. They’re such fine actors, I never realized how close in age they really were. Katherine Ross was an attractive young lady, but it was Anne Bancroft who seduced the audience. She singlehandedly made it okay to lust after older women. The movie recognized they were still attractive and seductive. And older women apparently knew what they were doing. Ever after, all older women would be called Mrs. Robinson.
Mrs. Robinson too bristles against the ordinary, fighting against it by diving into the bottle or having inappropriate affairs. The movie is filled with great Simon and Garfunkel songs and Buck Henry lines and Mike Nichols scenes. It is so emblematic of the year it came out, one is instantly transported back to the late 1960’s. I love the movie. I know it is great, but it makes me so uncomfortable, I can barely watch it.
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