Have you seen The Graduate? It is, in my humble opinion, one of the best movies ever made in the history of all cinema. Mike Nichols is a cinematic genius whose shots, tracking, and style have been copied dozens of times over by those who came after. The writing, the acting, all of it. Brilliant.
When I was in college, junior college more accurately, I wrote four papers on this film for four different classes, on four separate topics. One was a film class, one was a color theory class, and I forget the other two. Anyway, I got a lot of material out of The Graduate and still find it simply fantastic to this very day.
This day, incidentally, is about 19 years after I wrote the last paper on the subject. When I was in college, I was about the age of Dustin Hoffman’s main character Benjamin is in the film. Ben is a recent graduate (hence) and is full of confusion, anxiety, and alienation from his parents’ world, and just generally a mess full of ennui. Much like all of us at 19, 20, 21 years old, I think. He strikes up a…relationship of sorts… with Mrs Robinson (deftly played by a gorgeous and great hair-having Anne Bancroft), who is 20 years his senior, married, and quite determined to have a sexual relationship with Ben, like it or not.
He’s awkward, confused, and conflicted over the affair while Mrs Robinson is (at first) confident, demanding, and cocksure about it. She instructs Benjamin on every move from the first hotel reservation to staying when he wants to leave. She is wise and manipulative, and plays him like a fiddle. He falls for every single move because she is literally, for better or worse, the only direction he has in his life until – dum dum dum – Ben begins to take a forbidden interest in Mrs Robinson’s daughter Elaine. This changes everything, reflected in the tone and color of the movie itself.
When I was 20, I understood Ben completely. He was all over the place with very little direction and in total disconnect from the environment he grew up in and feels hopelessly propelled into. Today, at 40, it strikes me slightly horrible that I can now relate to Mrs Robinson more than Ben. Ben is a bumbling trainwreck who needs near constant coaching, while Mrs Robinson is confident and goes after what she wants with little regard because she’s going to get it one way or another (and if anything, finds his insecurity something of a ball of twine to be batted).
This is not a good thing, mind you. Ultimately, it all unravels and things go quite wrong. We get a different view of Mrs Robinson and let me say that relating to her isn’t good on any level. But simply speaking, the age I am now brings some insight to the whole operation. I don’t know, that probably sounds ugly and ridiculous but there you have it.
The very end of the movie is a masterpiece of confusing non-ending, but the filming of it is expert and darkly hilarious.
In other news, the stocking stuffers are wrapped and everything else is getting the same treatment tomorrow while I stay in pj’s most of the day, drink wine, and watch the last few Christmas movies I have left in reserve. Once again, Christmas creeps up while feeling absolutely nothing like Christmas. It’s 60 degrees in Chicago tonight, with howling wind and absolutely zero chance of snow for the next 10 days.
If I don’t check in, Merry Christmas to all. Pour yourself a drink, enjoy whatever family you choose to surround yourselves with (even if that family is a pet or a giant pile of blankets). Cheers, friends.