A defining scene in The Graduate is where Mrs Robinson is putting on her hose as Benjamin watches. She has very thin legs and the hose glide over them quickly and easily. She fastens them to a garter belt. It’s a lovely shot. Benjamin looks entranced and he loses track of what he was saying. It’s a great little scene.
I’m reading this fun book about famous film personalities and the films they love called Watching Movies. Ron Howard’s pick was The Graduate. He prattles on about cuts and transitions and how this tool or that was used in the film. Stuff that a director would notice that has little enough interest for anyone else. I was amazed as I read how Ron Howard thought of this as a screwball comedy or a sex comedy and talked about the slapstick gags.
This was an aspect of the film I had completely missed, and watching it again, still can’t see.
I like The Graduate, but outside of one or two bits, there is nothing all that funny about this dopey kid having an affair with his father’s business partner’s wife and then stalking her daughter like a serial killer.
The Graduate is an interesting film. Mrs Robinson starts out as this total Dominant, but then she turns into this passive and weak creature striped of all power. It’s an almost unbelievable transformation. Her weakness is her daughter. And Benjamin, well, it’s a common enough fantasy to have both mother and daughter, isn’t it?
About halfway through the film, the affair with Mrs Robinson ends when Benjamin falls in love with her daughter. Mrs Robinson demands that he never date Elaine and makes several threats of what would happen if he does. This is left hanging. A loop that is never closed. Are Ben and Elaine brother and sister? One or the other the result of another affair twenty years ago? Or does the idea of Ben being with her daughter really disgust Mrs Robinson that much? It is never really made clear, not to my satisfaction anyway.
Also, the second half of the film is basically Ben stalking Elaine until she agrees to run away with him. In the real world, stalking seldom works out so neatly. And of course, we never know what happens with Ben and Elaine. The odds of a happily ever after seem pretty slim.
Watching The Graduate now, I’m at a loss to see why Mrs Robinson wants Benjamin. She could have any delivery boy as easily as she has Ben, was this a bit of revenge aimed at Ben’s parents? If so, we never see that either. Was she just that attracted to the short and whiny twerp with the washboard abs? She seems like a woman who would have more reason for doing something than that.
I like The Graduate, but I don’t think I will ever understand it. Certainly I won’t understand that it is a comedy. There’s a scene where Ben takes Elaine out on their first date and he drags her, almost literally, into a strip club. He ignores her and stares at the stripper, who wanders his way and proceeds to pound Elaine on the head with the tassels on her pasties. Elaine breaks down and cries and Benjamin pushes the stripper away. Hardly an act of heroism, since it was he that put her there in the first place. It’s a scene that could have been funny, but was not funny at all.
All the scenes seem to be random little snippets telling their own small story. None of them are humorous.
The music, mostly variations on Mrs Robinson and Scarborough Fair by Simon and Garfunkel, set the tone of the film. Sad and desperate with hints of manic depression. We watch as Ben swings from manic to depressed several times. He’s clearly a bit nuts.
We never really get to know anyone in this film. But it is interesting.