Tuesday, 12 February 2013

So here's to you, Mrs Robinson, Jesus loves you more than you will know...

The other weekend my sister went to go and see Les Miserable (I watched it too, I'm probably not the right person to talk to about it. Bloody three and a half hours of Russel Crowe walking along window ledges for christ's sake) and while she was out, my parents and I watched The Graduate (1968) directed by Mike Nichols. Needless to say I've been listening to Simon and Garfunkel ever since. Also Dustin Hoffman is SO SMALL IN THIS.

Benjamin Braddock is 20. He's just come home from college, and he's worried about his future. One night at a party, the beautiful middle-aged wife of his father's business partner, Mrs Robinson, convinces Benjamin to drive her home. At her house, Benjamin utters the legendary line, "Mrs Robinson you're trying to seduce me." Later, Mrs Robinson makes clear that she is sexually "available" to Benjamin, which freaks him out.

Despite his doubts, he is bored and has nothing to do, so he takes up Mrs Robinson on her offer. He becomes quiet and reclusive, guilty about his choice. All hell breaks loose when Mrs Robinson's beautiful daughter, Elaine, comes back for a visit from Berkley. Benjamin's parents pester him into taking Elaine out (although Mrs Robinson makes him promise he won't take her out). He falls in love with Eliane.

But when she finds out that he's been having an affair with her mother, she throws him out of her house and goes back to Berkley. He follows her and asks her to marry him. She refuses at first, after her mother told her that Benjamin had raped her (which is obviously a lie). But she comes around to realising the truth and asks him to kiss her.

Mr Robinson find out that Benjamin has come to visit Elaine and threatens to prosecute Benjamin (he was also told the rape story). He takes Elaine out of school to marry family friend, Carl. Benjamin storms the wedding and Elaine runs away with him.

This was a really beautiful film, both visually and emotionally. The topic could have so easily seemed so yucky and seedy, but they handled it delicately. Mike Nichols's direction is wonderful. He got fantastic performances out of all the actors. You keep forgetting that he's one part of the HILARIOUS comedy duo, Nichols and May.

The themes of the film are the lost innocence of youth, and the way youth and "potential" can alienate you from the world. A sort of delayed teen angst is what comes from the story. The scene where he doesn't want to go and see his parents and he stays at the bottom of his pool in a scuba suit just floating to avoid is family.

Dustin Hoffman is perfect as Benjamin. He was convinced that Mike Nichols was looking for a Robert Redford type (in the original novel, Benjamin is described as tall blonde and very American). Mike Nichols said, "Didn't you find the script funny?" Dustin said yes, and Nichols replied, "Well maybe he's Jewish inside." It's the little accents of his performance that stand out. The way he lets out little nervous squeals when he's worried and when he is banging is hands on the church window he just does little focused taps, very neurotic. It goes down a treat.

Anne Bancroft is genius in the role of Mrs Robinson. Everyone from Joan Crawford to Ava Gardner to Jeanne Moreau was tested for the role, but Anne Bancroft simply was Mrs Robinson. The scene in bed where she describes why she got married is very touching. She lets you see just enough vulnerability. She was only 36 when she played the role, but you would never guess. She looks very young at some points and very old at others. She's perfect for Mrs Robinson.

Another sterling performance is Katharine Ross as Mrs Robinson's daughter, Elaine. She's looks just right to be playing the typical kind of "girl next door" character, but she takes it a whole step further than that and makes Elaine very intelligent and sensitive.

The scene at the end is extremely powerful, mainly because she does so little. It's a real lesson, one that I will definitely be taking, in the power in her stillness as an actress. She doesn't have to do a lot to be impactful.

I realise most people have already seen this film, but if you haven't watch it! It's fantastic.



Kate Gorman said...

I love this. It's a great film. xx

KimWilson said...

Anne Bancroft was just on fire as Mrs. Robinson. What a gifted actress she was.

silverscreenings said...

Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft are terrific here. (But aren't they terrific in everything?) Despite the odd ending, this really is an entertaining film.

Stephanie said...

I've read Doris Day was the first choice to play Mrs. Robinson but turned down the part because it was too racy. I love Doris but I really can't imagine anyone but Anne Bancroft in the role.

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