Mike Nichols, a director seeking to prove himself, did just that. Ben Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) is a recent graduate with much talent and promise. He is every parent’s dream son: a scholar in college and a star athlete. He loses his way the summer after he leaves school, however. Day after day, he wastes his time laying out by the pool, staring mindlessly at the television, or sleeping with his parent’s family friend, Mrs. Robinson (the stunning Anne Bancroft).
Mrs. Robinson, a beautiful middle-aged wife of an important businessman she was forced to marry after getting pregnant, is just as lost as Ben is. She has no purpose in life other than to entertain her husband and his rich business associates. Out of pure boredom and perhaps a last-minute attempt at feeling youthful again, she seduces Ben. Her cougar-esque character is played up with her opulent animal-print clothing, perfected hair and eyelashes, and overall cat-like movements and gestures.
The plot thickens when Mrs. Robinson’s innocent daughter, Elaine (Katherine Ross), returns home from college. Ben automatically falls in love with her, even though her mother forbids him from taking her out on a date by her mother. From that moment on, Mrs. Robinson turns into a jealous and spiteful temptress, ruining his chances with Elaine. Losing her seems to awaken Ben for the first time in his life. He finally has someone to talk to, to share everything going on in his life with, and- most importantly- someone who understands him. The film switches tone from a lethargic, drawn out movie about a recent graduate who has no purpose, to an upbeat romantic film about a young man fighting for something for the first time in his life.
The characters in this film are always doing something so that the emotions and plot come from actions rather than from words spoken by the main characters. Ben is always trying to get Mrs. Robinson to talk to him, but all she wants to do is hop in bed with him. All his parents want Ben to do is go out there and apply to grad school. Ben, silent throughout most of the film, is unable to get his voice across to his family and relationships.
After proposing to Elaine, Ben is adamant that she say yes, even though she has already said she is considering Carl Smith’s proposal. On top of that, Elaine’s father reminds him that he is “filth” and that he is never to see or speak to his daughter again. Even after this interaction and her refusal of the proposal, he never ceases to give up on love. Ben proceeds to go on a mad chase through Southern California, all the way from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara, in order to the stop Elaine’s wedding before it’s too late. Luckily for the track star, he makes in just in time to win her over. His happiness soon fades, however, as soon as he realizes what he has just done: won over the girl whose lover is his lover.
I usually do not care for older movies because they don’t seem to relate to me or to society today. This 1967 movie is different because it touches on the fears, uncertainties, and timidness of most college graduates today. I am less than a year away from graduating, and am having many of the same feelings Ben expresses in the film. Of course, being the same age as the character gives me some basis for connection, perhaps more so than younger viewers or older viewers who have forgotten what this transition feels like. For example, a review by esteemed Hollywood Reporter, John Mahoney, captures the same critique on how this film relates to all different age groups. This film is beautiful in the sense that it switches from comedy to tragedy to romance very quickly, and life is like that sometimes. Mike Nichols has captured the essence of the eternal struggle of youth, yesterday and today: the real world isn’t all that glamorous, and every decision you make can have an impact on your life forever.
Review by: Courteney Case