“The Graduate”: Young Dustin Hoffman is a bit of Alright by Caitlin McGrane

Posted on February 8, 2013


I’ve never been a Simon & Garkfunkel fan really. Having been brought up on a steady diet of The Clash, The Sex Pistols, The Pogues and the like (Hi Dad!), I’ve always considered their noodly-poodly whimsical music to be a bit passé. Since I watched The Graduate, however, I’ve been listening almost non-stop (their dulcet tones have provided a great backdrop to re-reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo on the tram). And S&G’s soundtrack to The Graduate fits the mood and feel of the film perfectly.

Dustin Hoffman is fetching in drawings as he is in “The Graduate”.

Released in 1967, it’s actually of the same era as my favourite film of all time (Withnail and I, albeit Withnail is set in ’69 and was released in 1987). It seems that the mood of the ’60s affected both sides of the pond. The film opens with Ben (Dustin Hoffman) returning home from college—the eponymous graduate. Much to Ben’s chagrin, he arrives home to a party thrown by his jubilant and overbearing parents (William Daniels and Elizabeth Wilson). He manages to escape by driving Mrs. Robinson—yes, she of the song—home. After much to-ing and fro-ing, the two begin an illicit affair, which they conduct out of hotel rooms to the beautiful tunes of Simon and Garfunkel. This section of the film has a very arthouse feel to it, scenes melding into one another as Ben moves between his life at his parents house and his sanctuary with Mrs. Robinson.

Then he meets Elaine (Katharine Ross). Elaine Robinson is Mrs. Robinson’s daughter, and after much pushing from his father he agrees to go on a date with her. The date starts off disastrously and ends with the two of them agreeing to see each other again. From here it gets very shambolic; Mrs. Robinson’s evidently fragile mental state begins to show as she realises her daughter is more attractive to this young man. And Ben, bless him, starts going proper crazy-pants over Elaine (who inevitably finds out about the affair and flees to Berkeley).

An iconic movie moment.

As I said before, the film resonated with me because of the ’60s connection, a decade of utopia and dystopia for youth the world over. Ben truly embodies the sense of confusion that comes from graduating uni and finding oneself at a loss. Ben’s prospects seem obvious to his parents—to either begin graduate school, or find and forge a career path—yet he remains unmoved. So he chooses an unexpected conduit to cope with his uncertainty; his affair with Mrs. Robinson and his infatuation with Elaine help guide him through a tumultuous period of his life.

I suspect I am too recent a graduate to see the true beauty of this film, so I hope to come back to it in years to come and reflect on how my life has changed. I suspect Dustin Hoffman will do too; especially as his directorial debut, Quartet is in cinemas now.

Caitlin McGrane is You’re Dripping Egg’s resident movie reviewer. You can catch her column, Here. Hare. Here., every Friday.

What do you think of The Graduate? Are you an S&G lover or a hater? Sound off in the comments.