Ben has recently graduated from college, with his parents now expecting great things from him. At his "Homecoming" party, Mrs. Robinson, the wife of his father's business partner, has Ben drive her home, which leads to an affair between the two. The affair eventually ends, but comes back to haunt him when he finds himself falling for Elaine, Mrs. Robinson's daughter. Written by
Mike Nichols said that the use of images to suggest Ben is "underwater" and out of his depth in life --e.g., the fish tank, the pool, the scuba outfit--was deliberate, although he didn't care if anyone noted this or not. He also emphasized the use of glass as barriers with people cut off from each other and the life around them. See more »
As Benjamin and Mrs. Robinson drive and run through the "rain" near the Robinson house, the lawns and shrubbery in the background are lit by bright sunshine. See more »
Ladies and gentlemen, we are about to begin our descent into Los Angeles. The sound you just heard is the landing gear locking into place. Los Angeles weather is clear; temperature is 72. We expect to make our 4 hour and 18 minute flight on schedule. We have enjoyed having you on board, and look forward to seeing you again in the near future.
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"The Graduate" is a Tale of the Sixties. You Had to be There or you Won't Understand.
Many of the remarks which are critical of this film are coming from people who are too young to have fully understood the mood of the sixties. Young people today embrace the goals of career advancement and material success as all-important, and in that respect, they are much like the older generation of the sixties. The younger generation of that era are, of course, today's older generation. At the time (though it may be hard to tell now), they rejected the values of their parents and were idealistic and Utopian in their approach to life. The generation gap was the biggest issue of the day (aside from the Vietnam War) and it was a recurrent theme in this film. The shallow, cynical, and corrupt older generation were wonderfully depicted by the boozing Robinsons. They wallowed in bourgeois elitism and hypocrisy, an apt theme the extravagant, big band lounge music that Mrs. Robinson puts on after Ben drives her home from the party. Recall, as well, the seemingly off-the-wall advice given to Ben by a man at the party: "One word, son -- plastics!" Actually, it might have been good advice, considering the way things have developed, but it sure didn't seem so at the time. The older generation were "plastic" (artificial and phony), whereas the younger generation strove to be honest and natural, though obviously, few succeeded at it for long. In any case, you had to have been there to fully appreciate and understand these references, which at the time were anything but subtle.
Even though Mrs. Robinson is undeniably a far more sophisticated and sexy woman than her pretty, naive daughter, Elaine represents the unapologetic and uncompromising idealism of the younger generation. Ben, who more than anything wanted his life to be "different" and grew tired of his purely physical relationship with Elaine's mother, just naturally shifted his romantic attachment to her daughter. The movie's score began to play a more important role as he courted her. I don't necessarily agree with those who claim the second part of the movie wasn't as good as the first. Although Ben indeed may have been kidding himself about just how much he loved and needed Elaine, he nevertheless fervently pursued her, and his love for the girl, whether real or imagined, represented what he considered most important in life. This was a real parting of the ways from the values of the older generation, who appeared to place romantic love fairly low on their list of priorities. In fact, without so many examples of their cynical and oft-nauseating attitudes continually in evidence, the movie changed into something else, just as it did in real life when the relatively innocent younger generation tried to experience life on their own terms (which few of them ever succeeded at doing for very long).
"The Graduate" was thus a classic movie that spoke for an entire generation. It is easy to understand why many members of the younger generation of today would be turned off by this movie. They are like the older generation of yesterday (only more so)-- boozing at an early age, driven by a desire to achieve material success above all else, obsessed with gadgets and other ephemeral distractions, and terrified that they might be perceived as "losers," which not coincidentally is the biggest insult they can apply to one another or to members of the older generation of today. Benjamin Braddock would be, to them, "a loser" who didn't know what was important or what he ought to want. When their own kids reach maturity and begin to seek greater meaning and purpose than the emphasis on money and position that is obviously so important to their parents, watch them reject almost everything Generation X stands for. It will be "The Graduate" all over again.
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