A film seen through the eyes of Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman), a confused twenty-one year old, who is worried about his future but who does not simply want to follow the commercial path of his affluent family and their friends. His life becomes complicated when he is embroiled in an affair with an older woman, Mrs. Robinson, the wife of his father's business partner. It becomes impossible when he falls in love with Mrs. Robinson's daughter, Elaine.
The Graduate is based on Charlie Webb's groundbreaking novel about 21 year old Benjamin Braddock who's done all the right things growing up (good grades, scholastic awards etc.), but doesn't want to jump into the conventions his family and predecessors paved for him. In the midst of this confusion to figure out what do to with the rest of his life, Benjamin begins a affair with his father's partner's wife, simply known as Mrs. Robinson, before falling in love with her daughter.
This is one of those cases where the film is just as good as the book and a good read and view for anyone, but especially the people in their early 20's who also seem confused about life. I first saw this film when I was 19 and I was completely taken in. I was also involved with an older woman at the time and felt this sense of sexual confidence and control because I was satisfying an experienced lover who also was very experienced in life.
Of course this film is essentially a comedy while also dealing with key drammatic themes in life. The most difficult movies to make but Mike Nichols is not your average director. This was his 2nd film is what turned out to be a fantastic career and an outstanding body of work. And he's still going too! (On a rainy day, rent some of his movies and you'll see a body of work that's all about people dealing with relationships: Angels in America Mini-Series, Closer, Catch-22, Carnel Knowledge, Silkwood to name a few)
Dustin Hoffman is terrific (viewing it again, I am blown away how truly great he is in this role) in really his first role playing a character that is nothing like the book at all. In the book Benjamin is a tall blond California type with typical good looks. Dustin Hoffman is the exact opposite of that profile but Nichols saw something different in the story and wanted more of a common type of man. Which lead to Hoffman playing what ultimately lead to the poster boy for the young American male in the late 60's.
This film does not have a happy ending much like most people think it is and we're left wondering why Benjamin is so taken with Mrs. Robinson's daughter. His obsession towards her is just another avoidance to Benjamin's real problem: what he's going to do with his life. It's like sex and love are the drugs for these characters.
One of the most interesting scenes in this film comes right after a montage of the May-December romance. It begins with a close-up of Benjamin shaving in a steemed bathroom. We think he's still in the Hotel room with Mrs. Robinson when his mother appears, still in her sexy nightgown and we realize he's back home She confronts him about what he's doing when he's out all night. Bejamin is half-naked and so is his mother with steam between the two. The scene before this shows a sexy Mrs. Robinson kissing Benjamin and as most men would be too, I was turned on. Then this scene comes with his mother and bottom line it 'fucks you up.' It always comes down to the mother and Nichols, eventhough he's shooting a comedy, doesn't shy away from the 80 pound Elephant in the room and does it that much better by sneaking it on to us.
This is a film that confronts all of the issues of growing into an adult. This is a strange time for all and the amazing thing about it is that these same emotions happen to most of us no matter what era or upbringing we're from. The situations are just different. That's why The Graduate is one of those movies that is timeless and will still be seen 100-200 years from now.