(Air Date: Week Of 02/19/97)
So here's to The Graduate, 30 years old and still looking good, though it all seems pretty innocent at this stage of pre-millenium, post-modern, worldweary civilization. The Graduate arrived just on the cusp of fullblown, late 60's counter culture, and that explains the innocent glow on the cheeks of Dustin Hoffman, as Benjamin Bradock, recent college grad. But at the same time, this film foreshadows the mood of the generation that would make waves, not war, in the next decade.
First, here's some stuff that let's us know we're in the old days -- all these comfy, upper-middle class types sunning unapologetically by their pools. Hey, you guys ever hear o' skin cancer? Anne Bancroft's Mrs. Robinson peels down to her undies to reveal those quaint swimsuit tan marks. And she has a cigarette permanently grafted to her lips.
There's no hint that Elaine, her college-age daughter, has to worry about birth control -- she only indulges in a few chaste kisses that should, of course, lead to marriage. Poor girl, exposed to that horrible striptease show on her first date with Benjamin, the worse thing he can think of to gross her out.
And that ending -- man, it seemed like pure romance when I first saw this film -- you know, just after Elaine's wedding vows to the wrong man, Benjamin screams her name from the church balcony, and they escape together, pursued by the wrath of all that's holy, and love conquers all -- or does it? Hopping on a bus, they sit down in back, alone at last -- but, funny thing, they barely look at each. Have they run away to be together, or have they just run away -- you know, to escape marriage, the church, and their families' and society's not cool values. Hey, in two years it'll be 1969, Woodstock's not too far away.
By the way, Mrs. Robinson seems a lot more human now -- what's a woman stuck in a crappy marriage to do?
This movie is especially worth re-discovering by those who first saw it the first time around, so they can marvel at how their own perspective has changed. And of course it's worth discovering by any one who doesn't grasp the full import of the word - "Plastics."
Copyright 1997 Mary Weems
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