The Graduate is the iconic film that gave us the famous line “Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to seduce me aren’t you?” It is hailed as one of the all-time great romances and was the first to use the interrupted wedding plot device.
This film is somehow both enjoyable and off-putting. The main character, Ben Braddock, is delightfully quirky. However, he is not Robin Williams quirky, more of a I-don’t-know-what’s-going-on-and-don’t-want-to-offend-anyone kind of quirky. He stumbles through the film with a a cute sense of bashfulness that erupts into a fit of rash action in the final act. He is by far the most enjoyable character, but not the most interesting. That title is awarded to the devious Mrs. Robinson. She is by far the most disturbed character and the way she manipulates every situation is truly remarkable. Even more interesting, she seems to truly care for Ben and didn’t want him to be hurt. That said she had no problem selling him out to save herself. The supporting cast all knock their roles out of the park, my particular favorite is Murray Hamilton as Mr. Robinson. Of course, I don’t even need to mention the amazing soundtrack by Simon and Garfunkel.
As always, the film does have problems. Mainly, these come in the character Elaine Robinson. The character isn’t bad per say, but she lacks the emotional development of the other characters. For such a driving force, she should have much more personality and influence than “likes Ben.” The film also slows down for a while as Ben contemplates what he wants to do with his life. Some of the symbolism is too artsy for my taste and it seems to think it is saying more than it is. There is even a very strange Christmas Story-esque scene where Ben is trotted out to a party full of people while wearing an embarrassing outfit.
In conclusion, if you like romance films I would not recommend seeing this movie. the romance asset is very lacking, boiling down to love at first sight, and the two lovebirds aren’t even happy at the end. However, if you like dry and subtle humor, or thrilling conflicts between two average people (think Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf?) definitely recommend it. Personally, I enjoyed it because I liked the character of Ben and enjoyed watching what the twisted Mrs. Robinson got him into. If you see it, I hope you like it.