In the breakout role for Dustin Hoffman, the 1967 Oscar winning film The Graduate, features some of cinema’s most iconic scenes and dialogue. I think the majority of people know of the line, “Mrs. Robinson you’re trying to seduce me”, even those who haven’t seen the film, which I was one of until recently. It’s one of the most famous lines in history, as is the camera shot below the arched leg of Anne Bancroft as the aforementioned Mrs. Robinson. Getting away from just that scene, the film is a classic and the subject matter was surprising for a film released over 40 years ago.
We begin the film with Dustin Hoffman’s character Ben at a party in his honor. Ben has recently graduated college yet he quickly discovers he’s aimless. Watching the film it’s tough not to think of Dustin Hoffman’s most famous portrayal in the film Rain Man. What he does here in The Graduate hits some of the same notes as in Rain Man and I kept thinking that this was some kind of cousin or relative of Raymond Babbitt. Specifically it’s the vocal ticks that Hoffman uses that strikes familiar. Not that there is anything wrong with his performance, it’s just odd as I would have never put those two performances together before seeing this film. It’s not something I would have imagined I would have thought about while watching his breakout role.
Getting back to the plot here, Ben leaves his own party which he’s not enjoying and heads for his room where he’s greeted by Anne Bancroft’s Mrs. Robinson. Bancroft is straightforward with Ben, as she takes him home which leads to that famous scene. The two begin to have an affair until Ben is introduced to the stunning Katharine Ross as Elaine Robinson. Ben and Elaine spend a wonderful night together but Mrs. Robinson want the relationship stopped there and threatens to tell everyone of their affair if Ben doesn’t stop seeing her daughter. Ben doesn’t back down to the attempted blackmail and instead tells Elaine herself which leads to an understandable reaction. The film from here focuses on Elaine and Ben and his attempts to win her back. Without spoiling it too much, it’s a classic Hollywood film for a reason and while the ending might be predictable, it’s getting to that ending that’s a lot of fun.
While the Hoffman performance I found a bit strange, he was a damn lucky man as Anne Bancroft and Katharine Ross are simply stunning in this film. The two women, mother/daughter in the film although Ross is only 8 years younger in real life, were outstanding in the film even though there are a few reactions that are a bit dated. Most notably when Ben is in his apartment in Berkley and he’s talking to Elaine. She hears something she doesn’t want to hear and delivers an ear splitting scream and collapses like a young child might. The other unintentionally funny moment of the film is at the climax of the movie, Elaine sees Ben and screams “BEN!”. The expression on her face along with the level of volume is pretty over the top and is funny and charming at the same time. Actually if I had to describe the film as a whole, that’s the word I would use, charming. It’s not overly funny, or dramatic, but it’s a film that’s nice and comfortable with some great lines, fantastic acting and a hilarious scene at a topless bar, because where else would you take a first date.