Pauline Kael

One of the most talked about hits of the 60s, it was a formative influence on the counterculture, and it was the movie that made Dustin Hoffman a star. He plays Benjamin Braddock, who returns to his swank LA home after graduating from college, and feels alienated from his insensitive, self-indulgent parents and their whole set of lewd, money-making friends. As Mrs. Robinson (whose name was used for the title of one of the Simon and Garfunkel songs on the sound track), Anne Bancroft is tremendous fun, at first. She's the amusingly voracious middle-aged woman who seduces the nave Benjamin, and when he's in bed with her and wants to talk about art, the comic moments click along with the rhythm of a hit Broadway show.

But then the movie deliberately undercuts its own hip expertise and begins to pander to youth. Benjamin falls in love with Mrs. Robinson's fresh, wide-eyed daughter (Katharine Ross), and the mother is turned into a vindictive witch. (And the comedy turns into melodrama.) Commercially, this worked: the rejection of upper-middle-class values had a special appeal for upper-middle-class college students. The inarticulate Benjamin became a romantic hero for the audience to project onto. The movie functioned as a psychodrama: the graduate stood for truth; the older people stood for sham and for corrupt sexuality. And this "generation-gap" view of youth and age entered the national bloodstream; many moviegoers went to see the picture over and over again.

For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book "Going Steady" [where she really rips the film]


Review courtesy of Cinemania
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