"I want to say one word to you. Just one word. Plastics."
The Graduate is a 1967 film, directed by Mike Nichols and based on the book of the same title, about recent college graduate Benjamin Braddock's affair with the wife of his father's partner, Mrs. Robinson. Famous for being lauded as the first movie made for the (then) new Baby Boomer generation, prominently featuring Simon & Garfunkel music (most memorably the toe-tapper "Mrs. Robinson"), and sky-rocketing Dustin Hoffman to fame. Also contains many extremely memorable and oft lovingly parodied scenes and lines (particularly, "Mrs. Robinson, you're trying to seduce me" and the climax where Ben rescues Elaine from her wedding).Disaffected college graduate Ben, with no idea what to do with his life and no guidance from his shallow parents and their shallow friends, he drifts. He begins a clandestine affair with the wife of his father's business partner, who is always "Mrs. Robinson" to him. However, his parents have plans to match him up with Mrs. Robinson's daughter, Elaine. He and Mrs. Robinson both detest the idea (for different reasons) and he has every intention of making Elaine hate him as much as possible... until the two hit it off.
"Just one word. Tropes.":
Abusive Parents: A somewhat uncommon take on this trope: Elaine's, and to a lesser extent Ben's, parents basically want to control the lives of their children, despite the latter being adults. This fits into the movie's broader theme of a confused youth exploited and betrayed by a cynical, corrupt older generation.
Bittersweet Ending/Downer Ending: The film ends on a rather ambiguous note, leaving the viewer to wonder whether Benjamin and Elaine will live Happily Ever After or are doomed to repeat the mistakes of their parents and get caught in a loveless marriage.
Broken Bird: Mrs. Robinson is a lonely, depressed, alcoholic housewife. Just try not to pity her with her tragic expression when she confesses her major was art. She had to give up on her dreams when she got pregnant and married young, and she'd be the most sympathetic character in the story if not for the fact she apparently feels that since she had to suffer a Shotgun Wedding because of her daughter, then she should force her daughter to have one too.
Character Tics: That little sound Ben makes in the back of his throat when he's nervous.
Chekhov's Hobby: It's mentioned at his graduation party that Ben was captain of the track team in college. Golly, I wonder if he'll have to do some running later...
Cool Car: The Alfa Romeo Spider, which became so associated with the movie that in later years there was a trim level called "Graduate".
Creator Cameo: Buck Henry, who co-wrote the film's screenplay, appears as the hotel desk clerk.
Deadpan Snarker: Mrs. Robinson shows signs of this, especially in the scene where Ben tries to find Elaine at the house but she isn't there.
Disposable FiancÚ: That blond kid. Elaine was actually already married to him, but he was still pretty disposable in the end.
Drives Like Crazy: Ben does this toward the end, during that Berkeley-to-Pasadena-to-Berkeley-to-Santa Barbara shuttle. It's a minimum of 1,000 miles in 24 hours, on what were much smaller highways with stops and signal lights in 1967. The US 99 and 101 freeways were barely half-bypassed at the time, and I-5 not even open yet.
Not to mention his first date with Elaine.
Elaine: Do you always drive like this?
Dull Surprise: Everyone in the film save Mrs. Robinson. But in this case, it's deliberate.
Karma Houdini: Mrs. Robinson, save for getting slapped by Elaine during the wedding crash.
Well, her husband does tell Ben that they're going to get a divorce (which, given the era, will most likely make her into a pariah among their social circle). And she's presumably lost her daughter's love and affection forever.
Kavorka Man: Ben is plain, awkward, unemployed, with no prospects or ambition for getting them. And yet a mother and daughter fight over and both throw their lives away for him.
Landlord: Mr. McCleery, who runs the rooming house Ben stays at in Berkeley.
Like a Son to Me: Early in the film, Mr. Robinson has a heart-to-heart with Ben where he calls him this, and then offers him the fatherly advice to "sow a few wild oats, have a good time with the girls, and so forth". This, minutes after his wife has (unbeknownst to him) offered herself to Ben.
Manipulative Bitch: Mrs. Robinson. Once The Reveal is made and Ben tries to win back Elaine, he stumbles across Mrs. Robinson first, who explains that a) Elaine is arranged to be married, b) the ceremony is in a matter of days, and c) she's called the cops on him for breaking and entering. Gee, y'think maybe she doesn't want the two kids to get together?
Precision F-Strike: When Mr. Braddock confronts Ben about his failure to apply for graduate school:
Mr. Braddock: Look, I think it's a very good thing that a young man, after he's done some very good work, should have a chance to relax and enjoy himself, lie around and drink beer and so on. But after a few weeks, I'd believe that person would want to take some stock in himself and his situation and start to think about getting off his ass!
The Reveal: When Elaine finds out just who that older woman was. Awkward.
Runaway Bride: Man, those people on that bus must have been so confused.
Sad Times Montage: Set to Simon and Garfunkel, of course. Features mostly clips of Ben floating around in a pool and jumping into bed repeatedly with MILF Mrs. Robinson, one might think that this should be a Good Times Montage. However, the music is sad, Ben's facial expression almost never changes from one of lost boredom, and the general idea conveyed is that he's just drifting with no idea what to do with himself or his life, lost in a sea of easy-on-the-ears folk rock angst. (Another, even sadder one comes after Elaine discovers Ben's affair with her mother and leaves for Berkeley.)
Satellite Love Interest: Elaine. Sure, she's gorgeous — she's played by Katharine Ross, after all — but we never really learn much of anything about her, and indeed, her status as Forbidden Fruit per Mrs. Robinson's orders seems to be the primary source of Ben's attraction to her.
Sexless Marriage: At one point Mrs. Robinson reveals to Ben that she and her husband have separate rooms.
She's Got Legs: Mrs. Robinson, rather famously. In the scene from which the famous poster image shown at the top of this page was taken, Ben was actually starting to leave - then Mrs. Robinson decided to put her stockings back on... (Incidentally, those actually aren't Anne Bancroft's legs on the poster. Linda Gray, aka Sue Ellen Ewing, was the leg double.)
Stalking Is Love: Ben is guilty of this. He watches Elaine leave for Berkeley behind the bushes, then goes to Berkley to be near her, then chases a bus to bug her as she's on her way to a date with another guy, despite the fact that this entire time she kind of hates him.
Star-Crossed Lovers: Ben and Elaine. Heck, the kid had an affair with her mother, was accused of rape, and her parents forced her into marrying another guy to keep them apart. Thanksgiving's going to be awkward.
Except for the fact Elaine is the girl his parents picked out for him.
And the ending suggests they may not actually love each other. In fact, Word of God is that they're going to end up exactly like their parents.
Wall Bang: Ben does this during his first hotel tryst with Mrs. Robinson, when he grabs her breast and she's too busy trying to rub a stain from her blouse even to notice. This was actually improvisation on the part of Hoffman, who thought he had botched the scene and returned to the other end of the room to start it over. Director Mike Nichols kept rolling, however, and the result is classic.
Wedding Deadline: The last half hour or so is built around Ben trying to beat this. He fails, but it winds up not mattering much.
In the book, he actually does make it, but director Mike Nichols felt that it was too corny.