The Graduate (1967)
Here's to you Mrs. Robinson
Would you like me to seduce you? - Mrs. Robinson
When it comes to iconic movies "The Graduate" is right up there with the best, so much so that even those who have never seen it will know about it and the infamous line "Mrs. Robinson, you're trying to seduce me". With its clever, risque storyline, subtle humour and stylish camera work "The Graduate" is a movie which is as good now as when it was released back in the 60s thanks to a timeless storyline and brilliant performances from Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft.
Having returned home following his Graduation, Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman - Meet the Fockers) is troubled by his pushy parents whose expectations of him are high. At his "home coming" party he meets Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft - Keeping the Faith) the wife of his father's business partner who persuades young Benjamin to drive her home where she attempts to seduce him. Despite nervous and unsure Benjamin finally succumbs to the older woman's advances and they embark on a passionate affair. All of which is fine until Benjamin is forced by his parent's to take out Mrs. Robinson's daughter Elaine (Katharine Ross - Shenandoah) and they begin to fall for each other.
One of the first things to hit you is that "The Graduate" has a surprising streak of humour running through it. I say surprising as the storyline about a young man who beds a mother and falls in love with the daughter is something which lends itself more to drama than comedy. But from the moment we meet Benjamin and his pushy parents the humour is present, subtle humour such as his nervousness and indecisiveness makes you smile more than laugh. It's cleverly done and a little uneasy as the nervous humour is frighteningly realistic and it doesn't stop there as the story develops there are little caveats of comedy to lighten the mood to just the right amount when the storyline is drifting off towards being too serious.
But "The Graduate" is also understandably risque as it explores the troubled life of Benjamin and the two women in his life, and considering when "The Graduate" was released it could be seen as a brave movie. But in being such it's got a mix of reality and fantasy about it as many young men have thoughts about an older women and here we get to see those sexual thoughts acted out in an almost teenage, early adult fantasy. It's not just risque in concept but with split second nudity, blink and you will miss it, it is the sort of movie which teenage boys would fantasize about. What is quite wonderful is that although made back in the 60s this side of the movie, the risque fantasy side of things is as true now as it was then and it makes it a timeless classic.
Plus of course "The Graduate" is a seriously stylish movie full of clever camera angles including the iconic shot through the sexy leg of Anne Bancroft. And at the same time all these stylish camera angles have a symbolism to them when combined with some thoughtful, clever dialogue and the Simon & Garfunkel soundtrack. That iconic shot through the leg providing a border to Benjamin whilst those immortal words "Mrs. Robinson, you're trying to seduce me" are spoken, speak so much more as it signals the grip which Mrs. Robinson has over Benjamin. And the style and symbolism continues through out with an equally iconic ending which leaves things open to your own interpretation.
What is remarkable is that whilst Dustin Hoffman is now acknowledged as one of the greats of the modern age, "The Graduate" came very early on his career before he was a big star. Yet despite this the performance from Hoffman as Benjamin is sublime. From those early scenes where he delivers the nervousness of a young man, the frustration and fear over the future through to the way his character grows in confidence it's a remarkable performance. He delivers the drama and emotion of every single scene, gets inside the mind of this young man yet he delivers moments of comedy, honest subtle moments in tune with the storyline rather than thrown in purely for comedy effect.
Whilst Dustin Hoffman makes a name for himself as young Benjamin, Anne Bancroft is just marvellous as Mrs Robinson, delivering sexiness with a touch of domineering menace. From the seductive way she manipulates Benjamin to get him into bed through to her evil side as she tries to control things it's a powerful performance which again is so in tune with the storyline, making it believable that this older woman would chose to toy and bed a younger man.
And adding to this is a solid performance from Katherine Ross as Mrs. Robinson's daughter Elaine who innocently falls for Benjamin yet finds herself caught up in the messy situation. It's a pleasant performance full of innocence from Ross making the character perfect as the innocent one in this confusing situation.
What this all boils down to is that "The Graduate" is still a brilliant movie despite being over 40 years old. The combination of risque storyline, drama, subtle comedy and styling is just brilliant and gives it a timeless quality. But the performances from Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft lift it to another level making it an all round brilliant movie.
Tags: Age Gap Romances
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