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.
Disaffected college graduate Ben, with no idea what to do with his life and no guidance from his shallow parents and their shallow friends, 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.
This film provides examples of:
- 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.
- Adaptational Attractiveness: Inverted; in the book Ben is quite handsome, which makes Mrs. Robinson seem a good deal less desperate.
- Adults Are Useless: Ben's parents, specifically.
- Affably Evil: Mrs. Robinson, who seduces Ben and calls the police on him later, but she retains her high-class cordiality.
- Alliterative Name: Benjamin Braddock
- Auto Erotica: Mrs. Robinson tells Ben that Elaine was conceived in a Ford.
- Betty and Veronica: An odd but fairly well-done contrast between Mrs. Robinson and her daughter, Elaine.
- Between My Legs: One of the most famous shots in cinema history.
- Bittersweet Ending
- 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.
- Cringe Comedy: A whole lot of it for Ben.
- Dawson Casting: Dustin Hoffman was 30 and Anne Bancroft was 36 at the time this film was made. And she's supposed to be old enough to be his mother. And the movie works.
- Deadpan Snarker: Mrs. Robinson shows signs of this in the scene where he 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.
(on their first date)
Elaine: Do you always drive like this?
- Dull Surprise: Everyone in the film save Mrs. Robinson. But in this case, it's deliberate.
- False Rape Accusation: How Mrs. Robinson describes her affair with Ben to Elaine.
- Freeze Frame Bonus: During Mrs. Robinson's strip for Ben, there are very brief flashes of her nude body.
- Generation Xerox: In the final scene, according to Word Of God, this is what Ben and Elaine are realizing will eventually happen to them.
- Get Out: Elaine screams this at Ben after realizing that the older woman he had mentioned sleeping with was her mother.
- The Graduate Homage Shot: Yes, former Trope Namer Elaine!. Also one of the most famous scenes in movie history.
- Hot And Cold: Mrs. Robinson, towards the beginning of the film. Later on, she slips into full-on Psychotic Lover.
- Hot Mom: Guess who?
- Roger Ebert's 1997 re-review is a love letter to Mrs. Robinson.
Well, here is to you, Mrs. Robinson: You've survived your defeat at the hands of that insufferable creep, Benjamin, and emerged as the most sympathetic and intelligent character in The Graduate. How could I ever have thought otherwise? What murky generational politics were distorting my view the first time I saw this film? Watching the 30th anniversary revival of The Graduate is like looking at photos of yourself at an old fraternity dance. You're gawky and your hair is plastered down with Brylcreem, and your date looks as if you found her behind the counter at the Dairy Queen. But—who's the babe in the corner? The great-looking brunette with the wide-set eyes and the full lips and the knockout figure? Hey, it's the chaperone!
- Ben's own mother is actually pretty easy on the eyes herself.
- Jerkass Fašade: Adopted by Ben on his first date with Elaine.
- Karma Houdini: Ms. Robinson, save for getting slapped by Elaine during the wedding crash.
- 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.
- Lady Drunk: Mrs. Robinson, of course.
- 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?
- A Man Is Not a Virgin: Probably averted. When they first meet up to have sex, Mrs. Robinson asks if Ben is; he laughs it off, but she doesn't believe him. Neither do most viewers, seeing Ben's terrified nervousness.
- This might be a ploy to make Ben prove his manhood. Mrs. Robinson is a manipulative bitch, after all.
- Maybe Ever After: So, what happens to Ben and Elaine?
- May-December Romance: Not exactly romance, but Mrs. Robinson wants to regain her youth, and Ben wants to sleep with her...at least till he falls for her daughter...
- Mood Whiplash: The film gets a bit more serious once Elaine discovers her mother's "relationship" with Ben.
- Mrs. Robinson: The Trope Namer.
- My Beloved Smother: Mrs. Robinson becomes a rather twisted version of this vis-Ó-vis Elaine.
- New Hollywood
- The Newlywed Game: The Robinsons are shown watching this on TV when Ben comes to pick up Elaine for a date.
- No Name Given: Mrs. Robinson's first name is never revealed.
- No Romantic Resolution: While the romance is implied, some are of the opinion that the relationship is ultimately going to fail. Will it? Who knows, it doesn't tell us.
- Perpetual Expression: Ben in the above mentioned montage. His expression changes maybe once.
- Playing Gertrude: Anne Bancroft was 36.
- P.O.V. Cam: Used in the scuba-gear scene, along with Vader Breath.
- 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!
- Race for Your Love: Ben, on his way to the wedding.
- Real Song Theme Tune: Simon and Garfunkel's "The Sound of Silence".
- 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 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.
- Say My Name: ELAINE! (repeated twenty times!)
- 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.)
- Shotgun Wedding: Mr. and Mrs. Robinson's wedding was one of these.
- Smug Snake: Mrs. Robinson.
- So What Do We Do Now?: The last seven seconds of the movie. Their faces say it all.
- Speak Now Or Forever Hold Your Peace: He's a bit late, but hey, what's too late? "It's too late!" "Not for me!"
- 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.
- Star-Making Role: For Dustin Hoffman.
- Stepford Suburbia: The elder Braddocks and Robinsons live in a version of this.
- Stocking Filler: That scene, where they're getting dressed, and she's putting on her stocking... yeah.
- Television Geography: Everyone in Northern California knows this movie shows Ben driving the wrong way over the Bay Bridge when he goes to Berkeley.
- What they fail to wonder is why he's on the Bay Bridge in the first place, since most of the major routes from the south run along the Berkeley/Oakland side rather than the SF side.
- Theme Tune Cameo: Ben whistles the "Mrs. Robinson" song while driving in one scene.
- Throw It In: Ben grabbing Mrs. Robinson's breast during their first liason was completely unscripted, and the reason Ben walked to the back of the room and started banging his head against the wall after she didn't react (see Wall Bang below) was because Dustin Hoffman couldn't stop laughing.
- Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Ben, arguably.
- Vader Breath: Ben, when he is wearing the scuba outfit and the camera sees things from his perspective.
- Vanilla Edition: The Blu-Ray has fewer bonus features than any of the DVDs! Sometimes Fox tries to justify this by including commentaries and interviews on the bonus DVD copy.
- Virginity Makes You Stupid: To some extent Ben, especially in the beginning.
- 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.
- 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.
- What Could Have Been: Gene Hackman (who'd started his acting career alongside Dustin Hoffman at the Pasadena Playhouse, and was just seven years older than Hoffman) was considered for the role of Mr. Robinson. Candice Bergen was considered for the role of Elaine. Patricia Neal, Ava Gardner, and Doris Day were considered for the role of Mrs. Robinson. Jack Nicholson, Robert Redford, Warren Beatty, Charles Grodin, and Burt Ward (yes, the Boy Wonder himself) were considered for the role of Benjamin.
- Pretty funny to think of Warren Beatty and Doris Day trying to play the virginal Ben and the vampy Mrs. Robinson.
- Mike Nichols asked Paul Simon to write a whole batch of new songs for he and Garfunkel to record expressly for the film. Only one of the new songs ("Mrs. Robinson") was deemed good enough to use, so preexisting S&G recordings were used to fill the soundtrack instead. However, two of the other intended songs ("Punky's Dilemma" and "Overs") would be included on the duo's Bookends album the following year.