Dustin Hoffman’s star-making performance is only one of the reasons to revisit this 1960s classic – a funny and affecting satire of middle class life.
Benjamin Braddock returns home and is welcomed by his parents with a party to celebrate his graduation. But something troubles him. Life isn’t quite what he expected it to be. Then he agrees to drive his parent’s friend, Mrs Robinson (Anne Bancroft), home. What she offers him is the excitement he has been searching for. In return, she seeks a distraction from the banality of her life. But the return of her daughter Elaine (Katherine Ross), soon complicates matters.
Mike Nichols’ comedy drama helped define US life in the late 1960s and in its frank attitude to sex challenged what was permissible in cinema at that time. Adapted by Buck Henry and Calder Willingham from Charles Webb’s novel, the film perfectly captures the antagonism of inter-generational strife, the angst of post-adolescent confusion and a world in which attitudes to sex were being radically overhauled. It’s also razor-sharp funny. Bancroft is spellbinding as a woman disappointed by her life, her melancholy momentarily lifted by her illicit affair with Benjamin. Ross, Elizabeth Wilson and William Daniels (as Benjamin’s parents), and Murray Hamilton (as Mr. Robinson, and equally creepy eight years later as the mayor in Jaws) are no less perfect in complementing this picture-perfect portrait of seemingly stress-free Californian life. And Hoffman is superb as the spoiled graduate who realises that life isn’t free.