The Graduate – Mike Nichols (1967)

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 Story

This dramatic comedy tells the tale of the 21 year old Benjamin Braddock. Benjamin has recently graduated and is worried about his future. He has no idea what he wants from life and everyone keeps asking him about it. At his graduation party, Mrs. Robinson asks Benjamin to drive her home and tries to seduce him. Benjamin is shocked by Mrs. Robinson’s forwardness. He is too nervous to deal with this situation and Mrs. Robinson lets him know that she is available to him anytime. Later on he gives her a call and they meet up in a hotel. Everything about Benjamin screams awkwardness, but Mrs. Robinson seems to find this enjoyable and teaches him the secrets of a love affair. Soon they find out that they have nothing in common and that their relationship is purely physical, but they keep meeting each other anyway. Benjamin’s summer days are filled with lazy afternoons on his air mattress and steamy nights with Mrs. Robinson. When the daughter of the Robinsons returns from university, Mr. Robinson and Benjamin’s parents encourage him to take her out. He is reluctant to this idea and Mrs. Robinson basically forbids him to date her daughter. Eventually he succumbs to the pressure and takes her on a date. He tries his best to turn it into a date from hell with a visit to a stripclub (interesting show…) and general rudeness towards Elaine. But when Elaine starts to cry he cannot help but come clean to her and explains that he was forced into this date, and that feels sorry for the way he behaved because she is actually really nice. She forgives him and their date turns out to be very successful. Mrs. Robinson is of course furious that her young lover turns out to be in love with her own daughter and threatens to tell Elaine everything. The situation escalates and Benjamin confesses to Elaine that the older woman he was sleeping with, is indeed her own mother. Elaine is extremely upset and returns heartbroken to Berkeley at once. Benjamin follows her and tries his best to win her back. I will not reveal the ending, but I will say that the following events are dramatic, hilarious, touching and absurd.

Soundtrack

The soundtrack of The Graduate is amazing. Simon and Garfunkel composed and performed  almost all songs, including the famous Mrs. Robinson. Their music fits this film perfectly by giving it a melancholic and nostalgic feel. It makes you wish you were already alive during the sixties (though it is a critical film as well).

Side one

  1. “Sounds of Silence” – 3:06
  2. “The Singleman Party      Foxtrot” (Dave Grusin) – 2:52
  3. “Mrs. Robinson” – 1:12
  4. “Sunporch Cha-Cha-Cha” (Grusin) – 2:53
  5. “Scarborough Fair/Canticle (Interlude)” – 1:41
  6. “On the Strip” (Grusin) –      2:00
  7. “April Come She Will” –      1:50
  8. “The Folks” (Grusin) – 2:27

Side two

  1. “Scarborough Fair/Canticle”      – 6:22
  2. “A Great Effect” (Grusin) –      4:06
  3. “The Big Bright Green Pleasure      Machine” – 1:46
  4. “Whew” (Grusin) – 2:10
  5. “Mrs. Robinson” – 1:12
  6. “Sounds of Silence” – 3:08

Characters

  • Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman): Benjamin is a disaffected young man, who only gives in to Mrs. Robinson’s proposal because he is bored and wants to experience something. His voice is extremely monotonous with the exception of his nervous high pitched voice when he innitialy comes into contact with Mrs. Robinson’s naked body, or falls into other embarrassing situations. He is sick of the bourgeois kind of life style of his parents and their friends, but doesn’t know how to get rid of them. His future is a mystery for him and he gets depressed of all these questions about it. He is often portrayed under water, where he can’t hear what other people are saying. He feels save there, sort of as if he’s hiding in a womb (see slideshow for examples of Benjamin in the water).
  • Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft): Mrs. Robinson is the wife of the business partner of Benjamin’s father. All she does is parading around in her expensive clothes and being hammered. When she was young, she got pregnant with Elaine and had to marry Mr. Robinson even though she didn’t love him. She is trapped in an unhappy marriage and uses Benjamin to feel young and desired.
  •  Elaine (Katharine Ross): A happy, innocent and beautiful young girl who will win the heart of Benjamin. She is also finding her way in life and is happy to be able to talk to Benjamin about their similar fears. Shocked by the sexual relationship her mother and her boyfriend had in the past, her world falls apart and she needs time to think it all over. Unfortunately she is not given enough time and events take a dramatic turn.

This movie is filled with awesome one-liners and dialogues!

Basically everything Benjamin says is awkward and funny. His clumsiness and ignorance when it comes to sex and love is mirrored in his dialogues, movements and – as I said before – tone of his voice. Dustin Hoffman was actually too old to play Benjamin , but his awkwardness at the audition convinced Nichols to chose him anyway.

Mr. McGuire: I just want to say one word to you. Just one word.
Benjamin: Yes, sir.
Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?
Benjamin: Yes, I am.
Mr. McGuire: Plastics.
Benjamin: Exactly how do you mean?

Benjamin: Mrs. Robinson, if you don’t mind my saying so, this conversation is getting a little strange.

Benjamin: Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to seduce me. Aren’t you?

Room Clerk: Are you here for an affair, sir?
Benjamin: What?
Room Clerk: The Singleman party, sir?
Benjamin: Ah, yes, the Singleman party

Mrs. Robinson: Benjamin.
Benjamin: Yes?
Mrs. Robinson: Isn’t there something you want to tell me?
Benjamin: Tell you?
Mrs. Robinson: Yes.
Benjamin: Well, I want you to know how much I appreciate this. Really.
Mrs. Robinson: The number.
Benjamin: What?
Mrs. Robinson: The room number, Benjamin. I think you ought to tell me that.
Benjamin: Oh, you’re absolutely right. It’s 568.
Mrs. Robinson: Thank you.
Benjamin: You’re welcome. Well… I’ll see you later, Mrs. Robinson.

Mrs. Braddock: What makes you think she wants to marry you?
Benjamin: Oh, she doesn’t. To be perfectly honest, she doesn’t like me.

Mr. Braddock: Ben, this whole idea sounds pretty half-baked.
Benjamin: Oh, it’s not. It’s completely baked

Sixties style

What I loved about this movie, besides the story, the filming style, the dialogues and the soundtrack, were the clothes. Especially the way Elaine is dressed! I usually prefer dresses over pants, but she really works the casual preppy look. I also love her eye make-up which makes her eyes look even more like those of a doe. I would kill to have such wavy, shiny hair like Katharine Ross. I also liked the casual updo’s she had going on. Not the usual sixties A-line dresses (except for the outfit she wears on their first date. Beautiful coat as well), but a more casual, studentfriendly look which I really liked. See slideshow for examples.

Driving his car

The red Alfa Romeo Spider Benjamin drives delivers some amazing shots on the road (see slideshow). He is always driving too fast as a metaphor for the loose projectile he is himself.

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One thought on “The Graduate – Mike Nichols (1967)

  1. Quel dazzling movie! I daresay it has become one of my new favourite ones. It was funny (hadn’t immediately banked on that), superbly acted, elegantly styled, and Mike Nichols’ cinematography is honeestly to die for. Quite Nouvelle Vague-ish, though ever so slightly less disruptive. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.

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