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YMMV / The Graduate

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  • Adaptation Displacement: Yes, it is based on a novel, by Charles Webb. Ben in the book is a blond jock and a good deal stronger than movie-Ben. No wonder they auditioned Robert Redford for the role, and no wonder Mel Brooks was confident Dustin Hoffman would fail his audition, and be available to work in The Producers.
  • Award Category Fraud: A few people have claimed that Anne Bancroft should've been nominated in supporting rather than lead, as Dustin Hoffman is clearly the much larger role, and Bancroft takes more of a backseat to both him and Katherine Ross in the second half.
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  • Awesome Music: Simon & Garfunkel breaths life into this film, including Folk Rock tracks such as Mrs. Robinson, Scarborough Fair and The Sound of silence.
  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: A few scenes come across as this to first-time-viewers, but actually have symbolism:
    • The diving suit scene seems disconnected from the rest of the narrative. Nonetheless, it was meant to link Ben to the little diver figure in his aquarium he was looking at earlier on. Notice that when he sinks to the bottom of the pool, he stops moving and just lays there stiffly. It also gives the impression of him escaping all the troubles outside the pool by essentially going back in the womb.
    • There is also a bizarre moment when the camera stops focusing on Ben and zooms in on a gorilla in the background. The song playing is referring to being with someone, as it shows monkeys together, and then shows the gorilla after Ben to signify he is alone.
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  • Designated Hero: Much of Roger Ebert's re-review is about feeling 30 years later that there's absolutely nothing good or admirable about Ben.
  • Funny Moments:
    • So many. Especially the ending. Ben's initial attempt to procure a room at the Taft Hotel is another prime example.
    • A Real Life one: In Mike Nichols' initial meeting with Simon & Garfunkel they played him some songs, and eventually got to one they hadn't decided on a title for yet. Just for the sake of something to call it they said it was "Mrs. Robinson," to which Nichols was understandably nonplussed that they had a song with the same name as one of the characters and didn't lead with that.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • Seeing Katherine Ross end the movie in a Maybe Ever After becomes very harsh if you've seen The Stepford Wives where her husband eventually kills her and replaces her with a robot.
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    • After the allegations of Dustin Hoffman assaulting and exposing himself to women, the scene where Elaine confronts Ben about possibly raping her mother becomes less amusing.
      • The whole "Ben follows Elaine around even though she keeps rebuffing him to the point of crashing her wedding and them happily running off together" sequence hasn't aged well in the #MeToo era.
    • The "plastics" line is meant to give a humorous contrast between how far apart the parents' are from the younger generation's concern. The irony is that decades later, plastic has proven to be one of the greatest threats to the earth's environment.
  • Iconic Character, Forgotten Title: The Graduate has been referred to as "the Mrs. Robinson movie".
  • Jerkass Woobie: Mrs. Robinson, and to a certain extent Ben. Mrs. Robinson does horrible things, but in the scene where Ben tries to talk about art, we get a glimpse of a very unhappy woman who has deeply lost her way.
  • Memetic Mutation: [bangs on church window] ELAIIIIIIINE!
    • Plus the whole Runaway Bride bit afterwards.
    • What about "Mrs. Robinson, you're trying to seduce me, aren't you?"
      • "I am not trying to seduce you..."
    • "Just one word: Plastics."
  • Misaimed Fandom: Kids in the 1960s cheered for Ben. A couple decades later, many of the same people found themselves sympathizing more with Mrs. Robinson after realizing What an Idiot! Ben was. (Roger Ebert notes this in his re-review.) A more modern perspective, and presumably closest to the original vision of the film, is that they're all messed up and not terribly likable.
  • Moment of Awesome:
    • Ben fighting people off with a cross in the wedding scene. Dude, sweet.
    • Elaine's gutsy "Not for me!", after being slapped and told "It's too late!" by her mother in the same scene, is pretty cool too.
  • Moral Event Horizon:
    • Mrs. Robinson undeniably crosses the MEH by pulling Elaine out of college simply because Ben was getting too romantically attracted to her. Granted, she wanted to make sure the two were separated forever, but going so far as to deny her own daughter a college-level education, even in order to achieve such means? That just proves what vision the filmmakers were apparently going for (as mentioned under Misaimed Fandom above).
    • It's also possible she crossed it earlier when she hijacks Ben's car after his date with Elaine and threatens to lie to Elaine about him if he ever sees Elaine again. When he doubts that she'd go to such lengths? "Then you'd better start believing me."
    • She won't stop at False Rape Accusation, either; later in the movie, when Ben stops by looking for Elaine, she SWATs her own house purely as an intimidation tactic.
  • One-Scene Wonder: Walter Brooke as the avuncular Mr. McGuire, who buttonholes Ben at his graduation party. He's onscreen for all of about forty seconds and has just a few lines, but the single word of advice he offers to Ben — "Plastics" — is one of the best-remembered things about the entire movie.
  • Retroactive Recognition:
    • Look closely at the boarding house resident who offers to get the cops after Elaine screams. It's a very young Richard Dreyfuss.
    • Speaking of Richard Dreyfuss, he would later butt heads with Mr. Robinson after the latter apparently became mayor of Amity Island.
    • Not to mention the realization that William Daniels played Ben's father, at least for those who grew up watching him as Mr. Feeny or KITT or Dr. Craig or John Adams first.
    • A young Mike Farrell (aka B.J. Hunnicutt) can be briefly glimpsed as one of the hotel staff greeting "Mr. Gladstone" when Ben takes Elaine there for a drink.
    • Both Aunt Clara and Esmerelda are on the receiving line for the Singleman party at the hotel.
    • Mr. Roper is Ben's landlord in Berkeley.
    • According to the IMDB, that's Elaine May bringing the "Dear John" Letter from Elaine to Benjamin.
  • Signature Line:
    • "Mrs. Robinson, you're trying to seduce me. Aren't you?"
    • The runner up for this title would go to "Plastics". Strangely enough, on AFI's list of the top 100 movie quotes, this line actually placed higher than the more iconic one above.
  • Signature Scene: Ben crashing the wedding before running off with Elaine on the bus.
  • Signature Song:
    • "The Sound of Silence"
    • "Mrs. Robinson"
  • Strawman Has a Point: Like many of Mike Nichols' films, this one is more subversive than it seemed to be at the time. For example, the advice "Plastics"? It's good advice. The part about plastics wasn't intentional, however - shortly after the movie was released, new advances in plastics production (that the script writers were highly unlikely to know about) caused the industry to grow at an extremely rapid pace. The fortuitous timing resulted in the entire plastics industry becoming a Periphery Demographic.
  • The Woobie: Elaine. First her mother commits adultery with Ben (in her own bedroom), then takes her out of college (to keep her away from Ben), forces her into an unhappy marriage, then finally slaps her hard across the head when she chooses to run off with Ben.
  • WTH, Casting Agency?: Dustin Hoffman was completely wrong for the role of Benjamin as described in the book; Book!Benjamin was a handsome, blond jock who was confident and on track for success in love and life, while Dustin Hoffman was small and rather unattractive. When Hoffman was cast at the last minute, Nichols and Hoffman rolled with it and made him insecure and socially-awkward, and the rest was history.


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