Benjamin Braddock returns home just after graduating college. I gather he is supposed to be playing someone the typical age for graduating college, early twenties, but is very clearly close to 30. Although he is described as a distinguished student, president of the debate club, and a talented athlete, his character's personality does not possess the elements of drive, confidence, dedication, or maturity accomplishing those things would typically take. At a party thrown in his honor by his wealthy parents and their friends to celebrate his accomplishments and welcome him home, he attempts to avoid the event by hiding in his bedroom. When his parents convince him to come downstairs, he demonstrates annoyed indifference to the guests congratulating him and offering him advice. He then ducks out again up to the comfort of his bedroom where Mrs. Robinson- a beautiful woman that in real life is clearly only a few years older than he is, but is unconvincingly playing someone about 20 years his senior- who asks him to drive her home. He does, amid the continued whining he has displayed throughout the entire party.
Once he takes her home, she manipulates him into walking her in and staying with her until her husband arrives home, claiming to be 'afraid' of waiting in the house alone. She then continues to try to seduce him against his objections and clear discomfort. Eventually confronting him naked in a bedroom, ignoring the basic decency of 'no means no' and encouraging him to reach out to her any time for sex. He hears her husband arrive home and flees.
Later though, he reconsiders her offer and decides to ignore her predatory and disrespectful behavior and calls her up to have an affair. They meet at a hotel and he continues to produce a whiny, awkward, monotone energy and she continues to produce a practical, abrupt, impatient attitude. He thinks better of sleeping with a married woman up in the hotel room, so she insults him into having sex with her by indicating he only doesn't want to have sex because he is inadequate as a man rather than any possible moral concerns. So he gives in and has sex with her, presumably to prove that he can.
An overdone by today's standards, but perhaps original in the 60s, montage then plays indicating the passing of time as he continues his emotionally empty affair. As time goes on, his parents encourage him to date Elaine, Mrs. Robinson's daughter. When he tells Mrs. Robinson this, she gets angry and insists he promise her that he will not date her daughter, to which he agrees.
All it takes for him to change his tune is another pushy conversation of encouragement from his parents and he's off to take her on a date. Mrs. Robinson is understandably upset, but he has a plan to ensure the date goes badly. He is incredibly rude to her and takes her to a strip club where he ogles the performer until Elaine starts crying and runs out. Clearly upset by his disrespectful behavior she asks if she has upset him. In order to comfort her, he kisses her which, inexplicably, she welcomes, even though her face is still wet from the tears caused by how badly he treated her. It appears to be more evidence that in this movie, giving clear verbal or non-verbal indications that you do not welcome romantic or sexual attention has no bearing on whether that attention is given. He decides to be nicer to her now, presumably it was a good enough kiss, and they finish the rest of their date. Tears forgotten, she's now sincerely interested. So much so, that it does not faze her in the least that he admits to having recently had an affair with a married woman.
They make another date, but Mrs. Robinson confronts him and insists he must not date her daughter. He refuses, so she threatens that she will tell her daughter of their affair. He sprints to Elaine's bedroom and barges in despite her objections that she isn't dressed. Again, I guess objections are made to be ignored. He starts to tell her there is more to the affair and one sight of her mother's horrified face tells her the rest. She screams for him to get out and in this one instance in the movie he respects her decision and leaves.
But not for long! Even though they have only had one date, he has decided he is in love with her. His illicit affair with her mother and her specific request that he leave her be are but petty obstacles to be completely ignored. He begins stalking her, literally watching her from the bushes. Once she leaves for college, he announces to his overjoyed parents that he and Elaine are getting married. Their joy diminishes quickly when he admits that she hasn't consented to marry him, nor has he even asked. But again, these are but petty details.
He then follows her to college, rents out a room, and continues to stalk her. Eventually he confronts her on a bus ride to meet her date, and in keeping with the overarching theme, ignores her request that he leave, and instead tags along until she meets up with her date, Carl. Later she appears at his room, though it's unclear how she knows where he was staying since the movie doesn't indicate she was counter stalking him, and asks him to leave town. She doesn't want anything to do with him after he raped her mother. He objects that he didn't rape her mother and says that Mrs. Robinson came on to him. Elaine screams and plops down on the bed. He brings her a glass of water and she is instantly mollified, no longer bothered about her mother's violation, and actually apologizes for being so inconsiderate to the man she believes has raped her mother as to have screamed. Before leaving his room, she asks him not to leave town, all concern raised by the rape accusation blissfully forgotten.
She then shows up later at his room and asks him to kiss her. He does and immediately proposes to her and she halfheartedly says she might. This quick turnaround from screaming at him for sexually assaulting her mother to saying she might marry him, despite them having only gone on one date was the most ridiculous and nonsensical part of the movie. Over the next few days, he then constantly pesters her for an official yes. She tells him she is still is unsure and has been considering marrying Carl instead.
Mr. Robinson shows up at his room having found out about Ben's affair with Mrs. Robinson and confronts him. Ben assures Mr. Robinson that he shouldn't be bothered by the affair because it was only about sex and that really he is in love with Elaine. Mr. Robinson isn't comforted by this assertion and tells Ben to stay away from his daughter. Ben speeds to Elaine's dorm and is informed she has left school. Her roommate brings him a letter from Elaine saying that her father is angry and she needs to break off their connection.
Not to be deterred by her wishes, he sets off to confront her in person in true stalker form. At night, he hops a fence and sneaks into her parent's home where he finds Mrs. Robinson rather than Elaine. Mrs. Robinson calls the police and Ben takes off in search of Elaine. He shows up at Carl's frat house and finds out that Carl and Elaine ran off to get married. He lies to a few different people to manipulate them into giving him the location and rushes to stop the wedding. He runs out of gas en route and runs the rest of the way. He is too late to stop the marriage, but makes a huge, awkward scene banging a window and repeatedly screaming Elaine's name. She looks stunned and then screams his name in return.
This seems to be some sort of agreement between them that the fact that the groom literally kissed his bride not moments ago is yet another petty detail immediately and easily ignored. The two fight their way through the crowd of angry wedding guests toward each other with Mr. Robinson attacking Ben and Mrs. Robinson attacking Elaine. Ben then picks up a large decorative cross and starts fighting off the crowd. Yes, that's right, he literally fights off a church full of a now angry mob by swinging a cross at them. They then slip out a door and use the cross to barricade it in a scene that seems more like a cheesy action movie where the hero fights off the mass of bad guys to protect his love rather than a dramedy. The movie ends as they sit next to each other on a bus, riding away from her less than ideal wedding.
Being born in the 80s myself, perhaps I'm missing the nostalgia necessary to make this movie not seem like it was romanticizing making unwelcome sexual overtures. The main characters demonstrate a disturbing and illegal lack of appropriate boundaries- from exposing yourself inappropriately to someone against their objections to literally stalking someone to the extent you take up residence in a new city. But the message is that it's all okay because the other person will really wind up wanting it in the end. Heartwarming.
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