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Elaine Ben Ben Elaine B Elaine Ben Elaine Ben Ben Elaine B Elaine Ben e Elaine Ben Ben Elaine B Elaine Ben e Elaine Ben Ben Elaine B Elaine Ben ne Elaine Ben Ben Elaine B Elaine Ben ne Elaine Ben Ben Elaine Elaine Ben aine Elaine Ben Ben Elaine Elaine Ben aine Elaine Ben Ben Elaine Elaine Ben laine Elain Ben Ben Elaine Elaine Ben Elaine Elain Ben Ben Elaine Elaine Ben Elaine Elai Ben Ben Elaine Elaine Ben Elaine Ela Ben Ben Elaine Ben Elaine Ben Elaine Ben Elaine Elaine Ben Ben Elaine Ben Elaine Elaine Ben Ben Elaine Ben Elaine n Elaine Ben Ben Elaine Ben Elaine en Elaine Ben Ben Elaine Ben Elaine en Elaine Be Ben Elaine Ben Elaine en Elaine Be Ben Elaine Ben Elaine en Elaine B Ben Elaine Ben Elaine en Elaine Ben Elaine Ben Elaine Ben Elaine Ben Elaine Ben Elaine Ben Elaine Ben Elaine Ben Elaine Ben Elaine Ben Elaine e Ben Elaine Ben Elaine Elaine Copyright Š Jeanine Watkins

All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system without the prior written persmission of the publisher. Instruis Publishing 1494 Old York Rd #200, Abington, PA 19001 www.instruis.com ISBN 978-1-9821-0260-9 ISBN 978-1-4391-4267-7


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the graduate THE AMERICAN DARK COMEDY FILM

BY MELANIE JENKINS


synopsis 2


imagi

ne


a movie called

the graduate.

It stars Robert Redford as Benjamin Braddock, the blond and bronzed, newly minted college graduate adrift in his parents’ opulent home in Beverly Hills. And Candice Bergen as his girlfriend, the overprotected Elaine Robinson. Ava Gardner plays the predatory Mrs. Robinson, the desperate housewife and mother who ensnares Benjamin. Gene Hackman is her cuckolded husband. It nearly happened that way. That it didn’t made all the difference.


eh r

, u o y o t ’e s


Mrs.R obinson


Fear of

theFut

ure

When the story begins, Benjamin Braddock has just arrived back home in Southern California after graduating from college in the East. And even though he’s smart, accomplished, and rich, guess what — he’s unhappy. Like every Disney princess, he wants his future to be “different” in some vague way — not something

his traditional parents’ friends encourage him to embrace at his graduation party. But one of the guests at this party, Mrs. Robinson, the wife of his father’s business partner, has other designs on Benjamin beyond giving him career advice.

She wants a ride home...

and sex.

Benjamin obliges with the ride home but ducks out when the come-ons start to get a little overt-like, when Mrs. Robinson gets naked and tries to trap Ben in the room with her. But, later on, after having some depressing experiences that leave him feeling totally disconnected from everyone, Ben decides to give Mrs. Robinson a call. They meet at a hotel and commence their affair. After some comic misunderstandings with the hotel staff, a guilt-ridden Benjamin almost bails. But after Mrs. Robinson suggests that he might be “inadequate,” he

...busy.

plunges in, and they get


like Mother, likeDaughter But guess what again? Having an affair doesn’t actually make him happy, either. It actually makes him feel kind of disgusted and empty. He continues to drift aimlessly in his parents’ pool when he’s not giving Mrs. Robinson “the time” (as they used to call it back then). But plot complications quickly ensue. Benjamin’s parents have been nagging him to date Mrs. Robinson’s daughter, Elaine, and after trying to sabotage the date by taking her to a strip club, ends up hitting it off with her.

Could this be...

love?

It could be, but the budding relationship is soon crushed when Ben’s virtually forced to confess the affair to Elaine when Mrs. Robinson threatens to do it herself. Naturally, Elaine doesn’t want to see him anymore; she refuses to believe that her mother was the one who initiated the affair. She goes back to college at U.C. Berkeley.


It’s just like shaking hands! Ben’s relationship with Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate is not about love. They hardy talk during their trysts; the nature of their relationship seems to be purely sexual. On the other hand, he and Elaine bond over the conversations they have, sympathizing with each other over their doubts about the future and the world they’re entering. Ben feels like they’re soul-mates. Whether this is true love or not remains to be seen, since they don’t really know each other that well. But compared to the other relationships in his life, it must seem like a zillion times more authentic

connection

and connected. For someone as paralyzed and remote as Benjamin, the

for the first time in a long time.

with Elaine wakes him up


The Graduate was a pretty provocative movie for its time,

deliberately left out much of the actual sex acts because he

Hello darkness, my old friend

wanted to emphasize how little of a relationship there was

Ben moves to Berkeley to try to convince Elaine to marry

between Benjamin and Mrs. Robinson.

him and seems to make some progress. But it turns out she’s

even though you can see more sex today on prime-time TV. The raciness is really in the seduction. Nichols said he

engaged to this other dude, Carl Smith, a typical blond fratIn the film, sex is part of Benjamin’s disastrous attempts to

boy type. Mr. Robinson corners Ben and threatens to bring

grow up and find some meaning in his life, but all it really

legal action against him if he continues to see Elaine. Elaine’s

does is make him realize how empty his life is. He tries to

yanked out of school by her parents and rushed into marry

get Mrs. Robinson to talk to him before they have sex so

Carl. Ben ends up crashing their wedding, fighting off the

he feels they have at least some kind of relationship. What

irate wedding guests, and absconding with the bride. They

a square! We see Mrs. Robinson play on Benjamin’s sexual

escape on a Santa Barbara city bus, at first elated with

worries in order to seduce him — accusing him of being a

their romantic daring, and then perhaps a bit bewildered

virgin

or concerned about his sexual adequacy.

Ben tries to dismiss what happened between him and Mrs. Robinson by telling Mr. Robinson that it was just “like shaking hands,” but the affair has disastrous consequences for Mr. and Mrs. Robinson. Ben gets off more or less scot-free. He feels guilty, but he gets the relationship he wants in the end.

about their uncertain future…

And that’s where the movie ends.


creative content 1


BENJ AMIN BRAD DOCK


Mr. Braddock : Ben, what are you doing?

, l l e I would say that I’m just drif ting. W “ ” . l o o p e h t n i e r e H Mr. Braddock : Have you thought about graduate school? Benjamin : No. Mr. Braddock : Would you mind telling me then what those four years of college were for? Benjamin : You got me.

BenjaminBraddock Age: 21 Hair: Brown Eyes: Blue Height: 5’10” Weight: 183 lbs

Benjamin Braddock is a

mess.

Anxious, lost, aimless, alienated, disaffected — the character’s been called all those things. The film presented his dilemma so well that 35 years later, one writer used the term “Benjamin Braddock Syndrome” to describe a graduate, who, moving back with his or her parents, saw the future as bleak and devoid of possibilities. Forty-five years after the film’s release, another writer used Benjamin as Exhibit A in what she termed “Real World Syndrome,” which is evidently epidemic among recent college grads who are thrown into the harsh realities of planning a future. Our guy Benjamin has just graduated from a prestigious college in the east and should have a promising future ahead of him. He’s got loving, if a bit overbearing, wealthy parents who are very proud of him; he was a smart, accomplished athlete and student leader back in school; he won a fellowship to graduate school. He even got the most killer sports car ever for a graduation gift. None of that seems to matter to Benjamin right now. He’s just turned 21 and has no idea what to do with is life. He can’t see any meaning in his four years of college and he feels alienated from the society he grew up in. He sees his parent’s lives as empty and superficial. He wants something “different,” but he can’t say what. He’s in a kind of paralyzing existential panic. It’s hard to believe that he was a BMOC just a couple weeks earlier.


creative conte


ent 2


Elaine: I just don’t think it would work. Benjamin: Why wouldn’t it? Elaine: I just don’t think it would. Benjamin: Tomorrow? Can we get our blood tests tomorrow morning?

“Why don’t you drag me off ” ? h c u m if you want to o marry me s Benjamin: Why don’t I just drag you off? All right, I will. Right after we get the blood tests...

Elaine Robinson Age: 20 Hair: Brown Eyes: Blue Height: 5’6” Weight: 126 lbs

Benjamin falls in love with Elaine Robinson, a girl he knew in high school but didn’t like very much. Oh, he’s also

having an affair

with her mother.

Other than the fact that Katharine Ross was sweetly gorgeous, we don’t know much about Elaine, even by the end of the film. We know she’s a sensitive, good kid; she’s embarrassed to the point of tears by the goings-on at the strip club. When Benjamin tries to explain why he’s been such a jerk, she gets it. She feels like an outsider herself, and they can bond over that shared feeling of anxiety about their futures. She doesn’t like living by other people’s rules, either. Elaine’s family is a lot like the Braddocks — dad’s an attorney, mom stays at home drinking and having affairs with 21-year-olds. Oh, wait. Maybe they’re not like the Braddocks (unless there’s a side-quel called Mrs. Braddock we don’t know about).The Robinsons are unhappy, but the film doesn’t develop an idea of how growing up in that family has influenced Elaine’s character. We only get a hint of that in the wedding scene, when it’s only after looking at her parents’ angry faces that she seems to decide to run off with Benjamin. Before she meets Ben, Elaine’s on a typical path for an affluent young daughter of a professional family. She’s at a great college and is dating a frat boy that her parents approve of. She’s not involved in the radical political scene at Berkeley and we don’t see any evidence of drugs. Maybe she’s wanted to rebel, but she hasn’t. The date with Ben shows us that behind her good-girl persona, there’s a young woman who’s been questioning the premises of her life.


ELA INE ROBI

NSON


, n i m a j n e I am not trying to B “ ” . u o y e c u d se

Benjamin: I know that, but please, Mrs. Robinson, this is difficult... Mrs. Robinson: Would you like me to seduce you? Is that what you’re trying to tell me? Benjamin: I’m going home now. I apologize for what I said. I hope you can forget it, but I’m going home right now.

Mrs. Robinson

Age: 42 Hair: Brown Eyes: Brown Height: 5’8” Weight: 103 lbs

Mrs. Robinson is a friend of Ben’s parents, which means she’s known Benjamin his entire life. She’s smart, direct, sexy, cynical, very attracted to Benjamin, and – we later find out – very bitter about her life. On the one hand, she seems formidable; on the other, highly vulnerable. She pursues Benjamin relentlessly until he agrees to meet her, and she manages to keep him interested. But, at the same time, her need to do this indicates that something’s seriously missing in her life. Call us old-fashioned, but happily married and content people don’t typically the grown-up children of their friends and colleagues.

start seducing

Quick trivia note: Director, Mike Nichols, and production designer, Richard Sylbert, wanted to use some sort of visual cue to playfully suggest that Mrs. Robinson was like a predator stalking her prey. They did this by giving Bancroft leopard-skin and tiger-stripe clothing and décor and fur-coats. Nichols credited his reading of Henry James’ “The Beast in the Jungle” for this inspiration. As we watch the seduction progress – and actually work – we get a better sense of what Mrs. Robinson wants out of it. She doesn’t seem to be looking for an emotional relationship with Benjamin. This isn’t a torrid, infatuated affair. She wants sex, and the comfort and release that it brings. She’s looking for oblivion, a way to forget her own unhappy life — at least, that’s apparently what she wants. Like Benjamin, she seems lost and adrift herself. During much of the sex, the shots of her face show us she’s checked out. Benjamin has to beg her to say a few words instead of just jumping into bed.


YOU’RE THE

First Person I COULD

STAND

TO B E W I T H .


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F O R E D U C AT I O N A L P U R P O S E S O N LY.

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