What an absurdly dead-pan delight!
Dustin Hoffman, slowly building his way up as one of my favourite actors, plays a – well, a graduate, who’s got top marks, a bright future, and an upper-class suburban family that is constantly breathing down his neck.
But Benjamin (that’s his character’s name) doesn’t know what exactly to do with his future.
That all changes when Mrs Robinson, the family friend, seduces Benjamin into an adulterous affair.
Things get even more complicated when he then falls in love with her daughter.
This movie’s a straight-faced, expressionless blast from start to finish –
A strange combination of words, to be sure, but the best way I can think to describe it.
On paper, there is a very clear dramatic structure:
Benjamin is sleeping with an older woman;
Benjamin finds forbidden love;
Benjamin is forced to reveal the truth or say nothing at all.
The way Hoffman plays him, he’s this frenetic kid who just bounces from one unexpected feeling to another.
And the repressed undercurrent which Nichols infuses in his direction makes the story more believable, more personal.
For a movie that came out more than 50 years ago, it’s astonishing just how relevant it’s remained.
The comedy holds up, even surprises.
I was laughing, curious as to where the plot was headed, and, by the end, ponderous.
The statement on youthful rebellion and identity crisis felt so strongly in the late 60s is a poignant one.
Best of all, it’s packed inside of a truly entertaining film.
Sidebar: these are some of the best driving scenes I’ve ever seen; not something I was expecting but hey, who’s complaining?