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Let's discuss The Graduate, shall we?

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Let's discuss The Graduate, shall we?

Old 04-06-05, 06:18 AM
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Let's discuss The Graduate, shall we?

I managed to find one other thread about this film - someone had just seen it for the first time, but I felt there was alot of negative energy in that thread and people arguing about spoilers and whether or not the movie was a turd... so anyway, I'm starting a new thread because I've just watched it again - probably for the 10th time or so I guess.

So - expect spoilers.

And if you want to declare how much of a piece of shit this movie was, then start your own thread called "The Graduate sucked ass, who's with me?"

Anyhow - someone brought up in that other thread about the possibility that Elaine was preggers. I never really got that out of the film, but it's worth discussing I suppose.

What I'd like to know is - why was Mrs. Robinson so strongly against Ben going on a date with her daughter... I mean, aside from the obvious reasons. I mean, she never really said and she was so against it that I've always felt there had to be some deeper reason... like that Elaine was his half-sister or something. Something even more scandalous than just the fact that he was her plaything and such a thing would just be too creepy.

Also up for discussion should be the very end... the looks on their faces. What exactly do they mean? Is Ben all freaked out like "what the fuck have I gotten myself into?" He does bust out that huge grin for a second and then go back to the blank stare. I guess we're supposed to figure it out for ourselves and discuss it. What do you think?
Old 04-06-05, 07:12 AM
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Although I'm not saying "It sucked ass," I feel feel that The Graduate is highly overrated. It starts off well, and until about the halfway point, is really great. The problem is the sudden shift of gears when Ben starts chasing after Elaine. Up until that point the only truly sympathetic character is Mrs. Robinson, especially in the scene where she reveals to Ben her major in college. In my opinion she is the real protaganist. Then, suddenly, she becomes a 2 dimensional movie villian and we are expected to start rooting for Ben, and hate Mrs. Robinson. It takes two seperate stories with the same characters but different points of view and splices them together at an arbitrary point in the middle. Sorry to defy your rules so blatantly, but I feel like no one has ever expressed what seems to me so obviously flawed about this film.
Old 04-06-05, 07:26 AM
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"Plastics"
Old 04-06-05, 08:43 AM
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I recall watching this in a film class and remember being so transfixed by it. Specificially, the opening credits sequence and what is arguably the best camera shot in cinematic history.
Old 04-06-05, 09:46 AM
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Originally Posted by Trigger

Also up for discussion should be the very end... the looks on their faces. What exactly do they mean? Is Ben all freaked out like "what the fuck have I gotten myself into?" He does bust out that huge grin for a second and then go back to the blank stare. I guess we're supposed to figure it out for ourselves and discuss it. What do you think?
I just bought this the other day and watched it for the first time since my junior year of high school. I thought I remembered the end and thought they were smiling and happy, but when i rewatched it I noticed what you said, that their faces were very plain and staring straight forward. I actually like that a bit better than the "happy" ending. After what they just did (run out of a wedding, Ben swinging a cross to get away) I'm sure they would sit back and be like "hmm...WTF did I just do?" But yeah, I think it's up to the individual to figure out what happens next.

As for why Mrs. Robinson doesn't want Ben to date Elaine. It is a bit peculiar but I can think of a couple reasons. The first could be jealousy. I tried to think about how I would feel if someone came in and ruined a good thing I had going. I'd probably be pissed. But I think it's more complicated than that. Maybe she didn't want her daughter to have any link to her affair because she was ashamed of the person she had become. Either way, she had a great devilish, pissed off look during the movie.
Old 04-06-05, 09:47 AM
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Originally Posted by gfoots
Although I'm not saying "It sucked ass," I feel feel that The Graduate is highly overrated. It starts off well, and until about the halfway point, is really great. The problem is the sudden shift of gears when Ben starts chasing after Elaine. Up until that point the only truly sympathetic character is Mrs. Robinson, especially in the scene where she reveals to Ben her major in college. In my opinion she is the real protaganist. Then, suddenly, she becomes a 2 dimensional movie villian and we are expected to start rooting for Ben, and hate Mrs. Robinson. It takes two seperate stories with the same characters but different points of view and splices them together at an arbitrary point in the middle. Sorry to defy your rules so blatantly, but I feel like no one has ever expressed what seems to me so obviously flawed about this film.
I really don't understand this criticism at all. Is it so difficult to accept a complex character, one who you can empathize with at one moment, and despise at another? Mrs. Robinson is dissatisfied with her life, and for good reason. Her world consists of a loveless marriage that resulted from an evening of cheap sex in the back of Buick, the subsequent pregnancy, the forced end of her personal journey and her self-actualization as an artist (or whatever), the life she was denied so she could assume the role society has provided for her. In those times, she didn't have a choice.

In other words, she is Ben in many ways, or what he may become unless he can somehow alter his trajectory and break free of the traps and expectations of the shallow bourgeois life of his parent's generation (and Mrs. Robinson's). It was the failure to break free that made Mrs. Robinson a monster. But it shouldn't cause us cognitive dissonance to understand why, to realize that she's a product of the very society that Ben is beginning to reject. After all what did Elaine say to Mrs. Robinson when she forbade her from seeing Ben? "It's not too late for me, mother!"

And let's not forget that even Ben, poor put-upon Ben, is shown to be rather callous with Elaine, even cruel to her. He's wrestling with his destiny, and is hardly a completely sympathetic character. Even Mr. Robinson, inattentive husband and all-round jerk, is somewhat justified in his rage over his wife's affair with Ben. And Ben's clueless parents, wanting only for their son to conform to their generational mores, turn out to be not exactly incorrect when they push Ben to consider marrying the sweet girl from the neighborhood whose parents are just as white bread and middle class and lacking in self-awareness as they.

What I'd like to know is - why was Mrs. Robinson so strongly against Ben going on a date with her daughter... I mean, aside from the obvious reasons.
I think the obvious reasons are the correct ones. I mean, a summer fling is one thing, but how in the world could Mrs. Robinson accept Ben's rejection and welcome him into the family as a son-in-law? For how long could the secret of their affair be kept? Forever? Is this a situation that anyone could possible accept? After all, such a revelation would destroy their reputations in the community, would shatter the Robinsons' marriage and the partnership/friendship with Ben's family (not to mention the mother-daughter bond), and ultimately dislodge them from their comfy place in society, the respect and privileges that it entails, and that of course means risking everything.

And, indeed, what happens when the jig is finally up, when the affair is exposed, when the track star and "Hopington" scholar is revealed as a cad and backdoor man, as the Robinsons careen towards divorce, and Elaine rejects the golden boy prince from Berkeley... how could it not end in violent recriminations, accusations, guilt? The whole charade of middle-class perfection has been exposed, the pathologies of each relationship laid bare. No one wants to stand before a mirror that truthful.

So, Ben and Elaine escape... to what? What really have they achieved? Is their life really going to be different than their parents? The bus driving away is the last great metaphor in this film, and their destination is every bit as uncertain as the varying expressions on their face, from "my god we've done it" to "my god what have we done?".

No, it's not exactly a happy ending in the traditional sense. To the film's credit, it's not that.

Last edited by Richard Malloy; 04-06-05 at 11:01 AM. Reason: correction of some lame-ass grammar
Old 04-06-05, 10:30 AM
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Good points have been made. I always thought the ending was a bit far-fetched. I mean really she runs away from her wedding to be with this guy that she doesn't even really like. I guess you could say she was running away from her old life to start a new one but with Ben? C'mon she could do better.
Old 04-06-05, 01:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Trigger
Also up for discussion should be the very end... the looks on their faces. What exactly do they mean? Is Ben all freaked out like "what the fuck have I gotten myself into?" He does bust out that huge grin for a second and then go back to the blank stare. I guess we're supposed to figure it out for ourselves and discuss it. What do you think?
IIRC, the director just told them to smile, but instead, they just kinda sat there. The director liked it so much, he kept it in.
Old 04-06-05, 01:19 PM
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Originally Posted by PopcornTreeCt
Good points have been made. I always thought the ending was a bit far-fetched. I mean really she runs away from her wedding to be with this guy that she doesn't even really like. I guess you could say she was running away from her old life to start a new one but with Ben? C'mon she could do better.
They fell in love with each other right away - they had chemistry. Even though it was one date and him following her around everywhere, she was in love with him. The ending was perfect - defy your parents and their wishes... escape from the douchebag 'make-out king' and run away with the one you love.
Old 04-06-05, 01:43 PM
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Originally Posted by Richard Malloy
I think the obvious reasons are the correct ones. I mean, a summer fling is one thing, but how in the world could Mrs. Robinson accept Ben's rejection and welcome him into the family as a son-in-law? For how long could the secret of their affair be kept? Forever? Is this a situation that anyone could possible accept? After all, such a revelation would destroy their reputations in the community, would shatter the Robinsons' marriage and the partnership/friendship with Ben's family (not to mention the mother-daughter bond), and ultimately dislodge them from their comfy place in society, the respect and privileges that it entails, and that of course means risking everything.
I don't know about that... I think Mrs. Robinson clearly had zero respect for those things. She didn't seem to care about anything at all - except that Ben never ever even take her daughter out. Not just date, but take her out even once. She was cold and distant about everything - including sex, which was mechanical. The only thing she was remotely passionate about was that Ben never see her daughter.

This is why I started to wonder why... because she doesn't seem to care about anything, why care about that? She has nothing to lose essentially - nothing that she'd miss terribly. Her youth? I mean, was her biggest fear that Ben would get a piece of a younger verision of her and realize that she's washed up and too old? Sure, there's that. There's also the taboo of the thing - that filthy boy sex plaything would be doinking her daughter as well. Sick.
Old 04-06-05, 02:40 PM
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I don't know about that... I think Mrs. Robinson clearly had zero respect for those things.
I think it's safe to say that Mrs. Robinson alone among "the parent's generation" recognizes the emptiness of their lives, and she certainly resents it. But she can't seem to escape it either, save the brief anodyne of l'affair Benjamin (probably the latest in a series).

I mean, if she really didn't care about this world, it's trappings and privileges, then why marry Mr. Robinson in the first place? Why not divorce him already? Now, nearly four decades later, we must remember that even in the late-60s, single mothers and divorcees carried a certain stigma, and it would be foolish for us to think that escaping this life would have been easy for her. Audiences of the day might have understood this better than we do. But as much as Mrs. Robinson may recognize the hypocricy, complacency, and emptiness of her lifestyle, it's still her world. She's still bound up in the rituals and expectations of the American post-war bourgeoisie, still identifies with the society that comprises it, escaping only in brief moments with Ben. And, likewise, Ben also finds brief moments of escape from that world with her.

But true escape comes only for Ben and Elaine when they physically flee their parents' world, leaving their angry, spitting, uncomprehending families locked in the church hall by the ultimate symbol of their religion, representing all that is a prison of the mind, all that represses their true hopes and desires... only to discover that they know not where they're headed, only what they leave behind.

Last edited by Richard Malloy; 04-06-05 at 02:42 PM.
Old 04-06-05, 03:40 PM
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Originally Posted by Richard Malloy
I think it's safe to say that Mrs. Robinson alone among "the parent's generation" recognizes the emptiness of their lives, and she certainly resents it. But she can't seem to escape it either, save the brief anodyne of l'affair Benjamin (probably the latest in a series).

I mean, if she really didn't care about this world, it's trappings and privileges, then why marry Mr. Robinson in the first place? Why not divorce him already? Now, nearly four decades later, we must remember that even in the late-60s, single mothers and divorcees carried a certain stigma, and it would be foolish for us to think that escaping this life would have been easy for her. Audiences of the day might have understood this better than we do. But as much as Mrs. Robinson may recognize the hypocricy, complacency, and emptiness of her lifestyle, it's still her world. She's still bound up in the rituals and expectations of the American post-war bourgeoisie, still identifies with the society that comprises it, escaping only in brief moments with Ben. And, likewise, Ben also finds brief moments of escape from that world with her.

But true escape comes only for Ben and Elaine when they physically flee their parents' world, leaving their angry, spitting, uncomprehending families locked in the church hall by the ultimate symbol of their religion, representing all that is a prison of the mind, all that represses their true hopes and desires... only to discover that they know not where they're headed, only what they leave behind.
You make some good points, but to specifically address "why marry Mr. Robinson in the first place" - she was preggers and young... her marriage to him goes along with the trappings you were talking about. Still, that says nothing for the person she was when we meet her. She seems to care nothing about these trappings. Escape, sure... but it's more than that. She had a resentment and contempt for these trappings and was more than willing to self-sabotage. She didn't even seem to be interested in her little affair. To me, it seemed to be more about her corrupting Ben or maybe not so much corrupting, but changing him. She was doing it to exhibit some sort of control... over her own life as well as Ben's. Control was one thing she didn't really have. In fact, control might be part of the reason she was so forbidding of Ben's relationship with Elaine.

Ultimately though, I don't think she felt like it was her world that she was betraying or escaping. I think her world was something entirely different. I actually think this story is much more timeless than you give it credit for. I don't think hypocracy, complacency or emptiness have evaporated from society. I think we still face these things today... just because the sanctity of marriage has lost it's foothold compared to those days doesn't mean people don't feel the same way she did. People still get bored with marriage. People still get tired of their lifestyles. And they still feel just as trapped as Mrs. Robinson might have. So while I can appreciate the social commentary people have drawn from this movie - that it represented a landmark for a particular generation gap and a shift in the way people thought - I can't say I totally agree with it... and I don't really think I can accept that as an explaination as to why Mrs. Robinson was so profoundly against Ben ever dating her daughter.



Another interesting thing to note is the beverage cans in this film... they had the kind where you had to use a can opener to poke a couple of triangles in the lid - one for air to get in and the other for liquid to get out. I was too young - the first cans I remember were the pull-tabs where you would pull the entire tab off to open them. A revolution. What's interesting about it is that in my work I go to alot of people's houses and get offered a soda. My clients who are over 50 or 60 ALWAYS without fail give me a soda with a glass of ice. My clients who are in their 40s or younger usually just give me the can to drink out of. Now, I never had to experience the old style can, so I'll always drink straight from the can... but it's interesting to me that a generation got so used to the idea that cans were just for holding the beverage and not for drinking out of. Ben drinks out of the can - which was at the time I believe something that lacked a certain amount of class. Something for the college kids to do. Anyway - I'm sure I'm reading too much into it, but I'm frequently fascinated by how every day products and how we use them can affect entire generations for decades.
Old 04-06-05, 03:52 PM
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I agree that the film is timeless (more to the point, I disagree with those who find it utterly dated), but at the same time I don't think one can divorce it from its setting and certainly not from the social mores of its characters. It is both of its time and timeless. I think that's part of its greatness.

Drinking out of a can? Blecch. In any decade!

Last edited by Richard Malloy; 04-06-05 at 03:55 PM.
Old 04-06-05, 05:12 PM
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Originally Posted by Trigger
She was doing it to exhibit some sort of control... over her own life as well as Ben's. Control was one thing she didn't really have. In fact, control might be part of the reason she was so forbidding of Ben's relationship with Elaine.
I was thinking about that as I was reading this thread. Ben is something of a boy in the context of their affair. Mrs. Robinson has all of the power and control in their relationship. If Ben becomes her son-in-law she loses that, and he becomes a power in her life.

I think jealousy is a big part of it too. Bedding someone so much younger is a way to touch one's lost youth. No woman wants to lose a man to a woman young enough to be her daughter, much less to her own daughter. That would mean she (Mrs. Robinson) has to face the fact that she is on the verge of becoming an old women. I also think she resents the life she lost and it galls her to see her daughter have her freedom when she couldn't have hers.

And of course, if Ben is the type of man who would carry on an affair with an older women he could never be good enough for Elaine.

BTW - interesting observations about drinking from cans!
Old 04-06-05, 08:26 PM
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I thought of that - the youth factor - and it seems to me that she could take it or leave it with Ben and if he were to date some other girl his own age, she wouldn't even blink twice over it. This leaves only the fact that she's her daughter as the sore spot. However, my contention is that Mrs. Robinson's reaction to Ben's comment about taking her daughter out is such a huge contrast to the way she is about everything else (which is apathy at best). So it seems there's some deeper reason going on there than just that she's her daughter.
Old 04-06-05, 09:42 PM
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Originally Posted by TruGator
But yeah, I think it's up to the individual to figure out what happens next.
Or wait until the author passes away, and the sequel novel is released.
Old 04-06-05, 11:13 PM
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Originally Posted by scott shelton
Or wait until the author passes away, and the sequel novel is released.
Buck Henry already pitched the idea of the sequel in The Player.
Old 04-06-05, 11:15 PM
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Originally Posted by PopcornTreeCt
Good points have been made. I always thought the ending was a bit far-fetched. I mean really she runs away from her wedding to be with this guy that she doesn't even really like. I guess you could say she was running away from her old life to start a new one but with Ben? C'mon she could do better.
They were both running away from lives they desperately want to escape. The other was, for each of them, the only place they had to run to (or, more to the point, the only place they thought they had to run to). They aren't in love; they hardly know each other. That's why we see them the way they are on the bus at the end. That's why Sounds of Silence plays at the end as it did in the beginning.

Maybe they do fall in love later (I expect they do give it a try) and live happily ever after. Maybe they don't but one or both of them manages to find happiness in some way. Maybe neither does. The ending is perfect and I never want to be shown "what happens." Open ended is the only correct way to end it.

As for being dated, in a trivial sense it is but in a much more important sense it is timeless which is one of the reasons it's a great film and always will be.

(Richard Malloy did a fine job of analysis.)
Old 04-06-05, 11:19 PM
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Originally Posted by Numanoid
Buck Henry already pitched the idea of the sequel in The Player.
And that wonderful scene (part of the brilliant, very long tracking shot that opened the film) so strikingly illustrated why The Graduate should never, ever have a sequel.
Old 04-07-05, 02:18 PM
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"Author CHARLES WEBB is writing a sequel to his hit book THE GRADUATE, but he doesn't want the project to become a movie until after his death.

According to website GUARDIANUNLIMITED.COM, Webb's new book, HOME SCHOOL, picks up The Graduate story several years after the original, which was turned into a cult film starring DUSTIN HOFFMAN and ANNE BANCROFT.

In the sequel, Webb's lead character BENJAMIN, who was played by Hoffman, is now a father who opts to teach his children at home, while attempting to escape the spectre of his former seducer MRS ROBINSON (Bancroft).

Webb insists he won't let the book be published until after his death, because he couldn't bare to see a bad film adaptation of his final work.

He says, 'It would be devastating to publish the book and then be a bystander and watch a mediocre movie made of this story.'"
Old 04-07-05, 02:39 PM
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then he shouldn't even write the book and inflict it upon the rest of us. If he does, he doesn't even deserve to turn over in his grave when they do make the movie.
Old 07-25-09, 11:20 PM
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Re: Let's discuss The Graduate, shall we?

Never before have I met an on screen character that annoyed me and aggravated me like Dustin Hoffman's Ben. He's like Napoleon Dynamite without the comedy. He's like an early, unfunny version of Michael Cera. And here's a comment that will gain some groans - I think if they made a remake with Michael Cera, it might actually be watchable. He goes from a lazy, mopey whiner to an unlikable co-dependent, no personality punk to a creepy fucking stalker. The girl isn't much better, and just comes off as stupid. One date (one date that didn't go well at all) and all of a sudden they're in love! How very believable.

"Hey, I fucked your mom."
"That's okay. I might marry you. Maybe."

By the end of the movie, I was rooting against Ben more than I've ever rooted against a character before, although I knew that being an old movie, it would end up with 'the good guy' winning.

I wouldn't ever watch this movie again. I wouldn't recommend this movie to anyone. I have no idea how this movie 'launched Dustin Hoffman's career'. I really don't. His range in this movie was from wooden board to a piece of shit sitting in a dirty park toilet. This movie doesn't belong in the IMDB top 250 at all, and is severely overrated.

Just had to get this off of my chest, seeing it for the first time.

Last edited by Tarantino; 07-25-09 at 11:30 PM.
Old 07-25-09, 11:33 PM
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Re: Let's discuss The Graduate, shall we?

Never seen it. It's on my list of "films too watch"...
Old 07-26-09, 02:51 PM
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Re: Let's discuss The Graduate, shall we?

Originally Posted by Tarantino
One date (one date that didn't go well at all) and all of a sudden they're in love! How very believable.
It starts out not going well, but then he stops being an ass and manages to turn it around. I haven't seen it in awhile, but I thought they went on more dates before Mrs. Robinson stops them.

Then, of course, he has to do a lot of work to get her to talk to him again. I think maybe Elaine doesn't like her mother. Perhaps that's Elaine's tinge of uncertainty at the end of the movie, that she did it more out of rebellion against her mother's authority than that she really loves Ben.
Old 07-26-09, 06:10 PM
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Re: Let's discuss The Graduate, shall we?

No, they went on one date. He went to pick her up for the second date, and that's when Mrs. Robinson jumped in the passenger seat and all hell broke loose.

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