The director and humorist Mike Nichols died last week, and that got me to thinking about his 1967 movie, “The Graduate.”
For those of you who haven’t seen “The Graduate,” it’s about a kid named Benjamin Braddock (played by Dustin Hoffman) who has just matriculated from a precious little college. He returns to his parents’ house in Southern California and spends the summer sleeping with his father’s law partner’s wife, Mrs. Robinson (played by Anne Bancroft). While he sorts out his life, he falls in love with Mrs. Robinson’s daughter. It’s full of oft-quoted lines, such as the word “plastics.”
If you’ve seen the movie, you know the reference.
The basic premise of the film was that of rebellion. The system has a middle-class life laid out for you, and in order to be successful, you have to go along. Benjamin Braddock, at least for the summer, rejects all of it: linear relationships, graduate school, a job in a corporation. You know: selling out.
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That was the 1960s, a comparative moment of blue-sky opportunity. Here we are almost 50 years after the movie came out, and today’s graduates are not only looking at a bleak job picture, but living with their parents, couch-surfing with friends, and, if they get jobs, dealing with drastically reduced benefits.
I wonder how Mike Nichols might remake “The Graduate” today:
Opening pool party scene:
Middle-aged man: “One word: Plastics. Enough said.”
Benjamin: “Plastics? Oh, boy! You can get me a job in the plastics industry? Where do I sign?”
Bedroom scene with Mrs. Robinson:
Mrs. Robinson: “I want you to know that I find you extremely attractive, Benjamin.”
Benjamin: “Mrs. Robinson, I find you extremely attractive as well. In fact, you’re attractive to me as the wife of my father’s law partner. Do you think that, in exchange for me becoming your boy toy, you could get me an internship with him?”
Scene where Benjamin’s father speaks to him while he’s floating in the pool:
Benjamin’s father: “I think when a young man has done some very good work, he should be able to take a little time off, drink a few beers and so on. But I would think after a few weeks, he would want to take some stock in himself.”
Benjamin: “Right. Would you leave this for the private sector? Have you looked at the unemployment rate? Have you priced houses recently? I don’t have a chance. And go get me another beer.”
Scene where Mrs. Robinson’s husband confronts Benjamin:
Mr. Robinson: “I think you are filth. I think you are scum. You’re a degenerate!”
Benjamin: “What’s the story on that internship?”
Benjamin: “Elaine! Marry me!”
Elaine: “Are you kidding me? My fiancé, Carl, is a medical student at Berkeley. Do you know what his annual salary is going to be, even after Obamacare? Specialists can make over a million a year. So, no, thank you. Pass.”
Benjamin: “Whatever. I just got a good job offer in the plastics industry.”