The Graduate

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
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I want to say one word to you. Just one word. Plastics.


The Graduate is a 1967 film, directed by Mike Nichols and based on the book of the same title, about recent college graduate Benjamin Braddock's affair with the wife of his father's partner, Mrs. Robinson. Famous for being lauded as the first movie made for the (then) new Baby Boomer generation, prominently featuring Simon and Garfunkel music (most memorably the toe-tapper "Mrs. Robinson"), and sky-rocketing Dustin Hoffman to fame. Also contains many extremely memorable and oft lovingly parodied scenes and lines.

Disaffected college graduate Ben, with no idea what to do with his life and no guidance from his shallow parents and their shallow friends, drifts. He begins a clandestine affair with the wife of his father's business partner, who is always "Mrs. Robinson" to him. However, his parents have plans to match him up with Mrs. Robinson's daughter, Elaine. He and Mrs. Robinson both detest the idea (for different reasons) and he has every intention of making Elaine hate him as much as possible... until the two hit it off.

The Graduate is the Trope Namer for:
  • The Graduate Homage Shot: In a very rare case, this trope's former name and its current one both come from this film. Not to mention it's also one of the most famous scenes in movie history.
  • Mrs. Robinson: Jesus loves you more than you will know, whoa whoa whoa...
Tropes used in The Graduate include:
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Inverted; in the book Ben is quite handsome, which makes Mrs. Robinson seem a good deal less desperate.
  • Adults Are Useless: Ben's parents, specifically.
    • Although in hindsight, Ben's parents are arguably far wiser than he (well, apart from the whole "living vicariously through your son's achievements" thing, and the whole "making your son date somebody he doesn't want to because it's good for Dad's business partnership" thing).
  • Affably Evil: Mrs. Robinson, who seduces Ben and calls the police on him later, but she retains her high-class cordiality.
  • Alliterative Name: Benjamin Braddock.
  • Auto Erotica: Mrs. Robinson tells Ben that Elaine was conceived in a Ford.
  • Between My Legs: One of the most famous shots in cinema history.
  • Broken Bird: Mrs. Robinson is a lonely, depressed, alcoholic housewife. Just try not to pity her with her tragic expression when she confesses her major was art. She had to give up on her dreams when she got pregnant and married young, and she'd be the most sympathetic character in the story if not for the fact she apparently feels that since she had to suffer a Shotgun Wedding because of her daughter, then she should force her daughter to have one too.
  • Character Tics: That little sound Ben makes in the back of his throat when he's nervous.
  • Chekhov's Hobby: It's mentioned at his graduation party that Ben was captain of the track team in college. Golly, I wonder if he'll have to do some running later...
  • Cool Car: The Alfa Romeo Spider, which became so associated with the movie that in later years there was a trim level called "Graduate".
  • Creator Cameo: Buck Henry, who co-wrote the film's screenplay, appears as the hotel desk clerk.
  • Cringe Comedy: A whole lot of it for Ben.
  • Disposable Fiance: That blond kid. Elaine was actually already married to him, but he was still pretty disposable in the end.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Ben does this toward the end, during that Berkeley-to-Pasadena-to-Berkeley-to-Santa Barbara shuttle. If, as it appears, he did the whole thing on California Highway 1, that's 1,300 miles in less than 24 hours, much of it on a winding two-lane road along seaside cliffs. The shorter, safer alternatives, Interstate 5 and U.S. 101, were still under construction in 1967, and if available, would only have cut about 300 miles off the overall distance.

(on their first date)
Elaine: Do you always drive like this?
Ben: Yes!


Well, here is to you, Mrs. Robinson: You've survived your defeat at the hands of that insufferable creep, Benjamin, and emerged as the most sympathetic and intelligent character in The Graduate. How could I ever have thought otherwise? What murky generational politics were distorting my view the first time I saw this film? Watching the 30th anniversary revival of The Graduate is like looking at photos of yourself at an old fraternity dance. You're gawky and your hair is plastered down with Brylcreem, and your date looks as if you found her behind the counter at the Dairy Queen. But--who's the babe in the corner? The great-looking brunette with the wide-set eyes and the full lips and the knockout figure? Hey, it's the chaperone!

    • Ben's own mother is actually pretty easy on the eyes herself.
  • Jerkass Facade: Adopted by Ben on his first date with Elaine.
  • Karma Houdini: Ms. Robinson, save for getting slapped by Elaine during the wedding crash.
  • Lady Drunk: Mrs. Robinson, of course.
  • Landlord: Mr. McCleery, who runs the rooming house Ben stays at in Berkeley.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Mrs. Robinson. Once The Reveal is made and Ben tries to win back Elaine, he stumbles across Mrs. Robinson first, who explains that a) Elaine is arranged to be married, b) the ceremony is in a matter of days, and c) she's called the cops on him for breaking and entering. Gee, you think maybe she doesn't want the two kids to get together?
  • A Man Is Not a Virgin: Probably averted. When they first meet up to have sex, Mrs. Robinson asks if Ben is; he laughs it off, but she doesn't believe him. Neither do most viewers, seeing Ben's terrified nervousness.
    • This might be a ploy to make Ben prove his manhood. Mrs. Robinson is a manipulative bastard, after all.
  • May-December Romance: Not exactly romance, but Mrs. Robinson wants to regain her youth, and Ben wants to sleep with least till he falls for her daughter...
  • Maybe Ever After: So, what happens to Ben and Elaine?
  • Mood Whiplash: The film gets a bit more serious once Elaine discovers her mother's "relationship" with Ben.
  • My Beloved Smother: Mrs. Robinson becomes a rather twisted version of this vis-à-vis Elaine.
  • New Hollywood
  • The Newlywed Game: The Robinsons are shown watching this on TV when Ben comes to pick up Elaine for a date.
  • No Name Given: Mrs. Robinson's first name is never revealed.
  • No Romantic Resolution: While the romance is implied, some are of the opinion that the relationship is ultimately going to fail. Will it? Who knows, it doesn't tell us.
  • Perpetual Expression: Ben in the above mentioned montage. His expression changes maybe once.
  • Playing Gertrude: Anne Bancroft was 36.
  • POV Cam: Used in the scuba-gear scene, along with Vader Breath.
  • Precision F-Strike: When Mr. Braddock confronts Ben about his failure to apply for graduate school:

Mr. Braddock: Look, I think it's a very good thing that a young man, after he's done some very good work, should have a chance to relax and enjoy himself, lie around and drink beer and so on. But after a few weeks, I'd believe that person would want to take some stock in himself and his situation and start to think about getting off his ass!

  • Race For Your Love Ben, on his way to the wedding.
  • Real Song Theme Tune: Simon and Garfunkel's "The Sound of Silence".
  • The Reveal: When Elaine finds out just who that older woman was. Awkward.
  • Runaway Bride: Man, those people on that bus must have been so confused.
  • Sad Times Montage: Set to Simon and Garfunkel, of course. Features mostly clips of Ben floating around in a pool and jumping into bed repeatedly with MILF Mrs. Robinson, one might think that this should be a Good Times Montage. However, the music is sad, Ben's facial expression almost never changes from one of lost boredom, and the general idea conveyed is that he's just drifting with no idea what to with himself or his life, lost in a sea of easy-on-the-ears folk rock angst (another, even sadder one comes after Elaine discovers Ben's affair with her mother and leaves for Berkeley).
  • Say My Name: ELAINE! (repeated twenty times!)
  • Shallow Love Interest: Elaine. Sure, she's gorgeous -- she's played by Katharine Ross, after all -- but we never really learn much of anything about her, and indeed, her status as Forbidden Fruit per Mrs. Robinson's orders seems to be the primary source of Ben's attraction to her.
  • She's Got Legs: Mrs. Robinson, rather famously. Although those weren't Anne Bancroft's on the poster (actually Linda Gray, aka Sue Ellen Ewing, was the leg double), somebody's sure got 'em. In the famous picture at the top of this page, Ben was actually starting to leave - then Mrs. Robinson decided to put her stockings back on...
  • Shotgun Wedding: Mr. and Mrs. Robinson's wedding was one of these.
  • Simon and Garfunkel
  • Smug Snake: Mrs. Robinson.
  • So What Do We Do Now?: The last seven seconds of the movie. Their faces say it all.
  • Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace: He's a bit late, but hey, what's too late? "It's too late!" "Not for me!"
  • Stalking Is Love: Ben is guilty of this. He watches Elaine leave for Berkeley behind the bushes, then goes to Berkley to be near her, then chases a bus to bug her as she's on her way to a date with another guy, despite the fact that this entire time she kind of hates him. Though, to be fair, she genuinely liked him before she found out he was sleeping with her mother.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Ben and Elaine. Heck, the kid had an affair with her mother, was accused of rape, and her parents forced her into marrying another guy to keep them apart. Thanksgiving's going to be awkward.
    • Except for the fact Elaine is the girl his parents picked out for him.
    • And the ending suggests they may not actually love each other.
  • Stepford Suburbia: The elder Braddocks and Robinsons live in a version of this.
    • And Ben is just another drone. Ebert states, "There were true rebels in movies of the period (see Easy Rider), but Benjamin Braddock was not one of them. I wonder how long it took him to get into plastics."
  • Stocking Filler: That scene, where they're getting dressed, and she's putting on her stocking... yeah.
  • Television Geography: Everyone in Northern California knows this movie shows Ben driving the wrong way over the Bay Bridge when he goes to Berkeley.
    • What they fail to wonder is why he's on the Bay Bridge in the first place, since most of the major routes from the south run along the Berkeley/Oakland side rather than the SF side.
  • Tsundere: Mrs. Robinson, towards the beginning of the film. Later on, she slips into full-on Yandere.
  • Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Ben, arguably.
  • Vader Breath: Ben, when he is wearing the scuba outfit and the camera sees things from his perspective.
  • Vanilla Edition: The Blu-Ray has fewer bonus features than any of the DVDs! Sometimes Fox tries to justify this by including commentaries and interviews on the bonus DVD copy.
  • Virginity Makes You Stupid: To some extent Ben, especially in the beginning.
  • Wall Bang: Ben does this during his first hotel tryst with Mrs. Robinson, when he grabs her breast and she's too busy trying to rub a stain from her blouse even to notice.
  • Wedding Deadline: The last half hour or so is built around Ben trying to beat this. He fails, but it winds up not mattering much.
    • In the book, he actually does make it, but director Mike Nichols felt that it was too corny.