I know everyone is expecting my declaration about how I would be all over Mrs. Robinson no questions asked, well keep expecting. It may surprise my readers, but infidelity is a big no-no in my book, so be surprised!
Screenplay By: Buck Henry & Calder Willingham
Directed By: Mike Nichols
It’s hard to sit through a film that has been talked up as a classic and think you just aren’t getting it. It’s even worse to sit through a film that is supposed to be funny and manage to crack a smile maybe twice in the whole movie, not even laugh mind you, but merely crack a smile. Thus sums up my experience with The Graduate, a film that was for a certain time if ever there was one. Looking back on my viewings of The Graduate I don’t know if that is an honest assessment, because even in 1967 I fail to see how people were swept away by this shallow, emotionless, unfunny, droll and unrelentingly boring picture. But, alas I am not always of the same mindset as the movie going public and this is undoubtedly another time when we shall be at odds.
I am a fan of satire and I am a fan of comedy, but I have less time for topical satire and I expect my comedy to be funny. We’ll get the comedy over right away, this film isn’t funny, there, that’s done. The Graduate relies on topical satire, and it doesn’t even manage to execute this topical satire all that well. In what way does Benjamin reflect the disenfranchised youth of the 1960s? In what world is Benjamin some kind of rebel? My uncle lived through the 60’s and when talking to him about this movie he was at a loss as to what Benjamin was supposed to represent about his generation. Benjamin does represent the young man unwilling or afraid to move ahead with his life after his allotted time as a non-adult has ended. But, that is a trope that has been present in movies since the earliest days of film and in that respect I fail to see what new twist Benjamin brings to the story. Based on my own experience and talking to people who grew up in the 60’s it becomes painfully clear what Benjamin is, he is a safety net. He isn’t a true rebel, he is the Hollywood version of a rebel, safe, unassuming and not possessing any of the qualities of a real rebel of the 60’s.
There isn’t much of a plot or story to The Graduate and that along with a lack of chemistry is possibly the films biggest downfall. At no point does the love between Benjamin and Elaine feel real or emotional on any level. Even the actions of Mr. Robinson when he finds out what has transpired between his wife and Benjamin feel hollow. The Graduate is a film with a meandering plot that doesn’t much matter and characters that have no motives for the actions they take and express emotions that aren’t actually there. In a lot of ways The Graduate is a fake move, if that oxymoron doesn’t kill you I’m sure I will at some other time, always giving the appearance of some emotion, thought or idea, but when you dig the tiniest bit into any notion put forth by the film there is nothing beneath the surface.
I wish I had more nice things to say about The Graduate, but outside of the Simon & Garfunkel soundtrack and the cinematography of Robert Surtees in parts, I’m still not enamored with the cut style he employed for the first naked appearance of Mrs. Robinson, there isn’t anything I like enough to say nice things about. The Graduate will fall into the group of films that others absolutely love but I find without many redeeming qualities. If the film works for you then it must speak to you in ways that obviously weren’t true for me. I can’t recommend The Graduate to anyone, not unless your objective in life is to sit through a movie full of falsities and coddled Hollywood images that exists in a world that is boring and completely devoid of life and punishes the one character, Mrs. Robinson, who actually shows a zest for life. But, no one wants to object themselves to that sort of amercement, do they?