Tag Archives: the graduate

Here’s to You, Mr. Robinson

I think you are filth! I think you are scum! You are a degenerate!

Mr. Robinson (Murray Hamilton) has a right to be pissed off. Ben Braddock (Dustin Hoffman), the maladjusted title character of The Graduate (1967), has ruined his marriage and now has his eyes on Elaine, his daughter. Yet when Mr. Robinson confronts Ben about all of this, he doesn’t come off as an outraged man rightfully defending his home and family. He comes off as a clown. He’s the buffoonish, cigar-clenching symbol of an uncool generation that’s had its chance to rule the world; now it’s 1967, and all bets are off. “Is it something I’ve said that’s caused this contempt,” he asks, “or is it just things I stand for that you despise?”

This showdown could’ve easily been played for straight drama, with Mr. Robinson as our tragic hero. In the hands of director Mike Nichols (as well as screenwriters Buck Henry and Calder Willingham), it’s a masterpiece of awkward comedy, as Mr. Robinson overreacts to Ben’s every gesture, misinterprets his every olive branch, and plays into every stereotype about gruff, overprotective fathers. During their argument, Ben tactlessly compares sex with Mrs. Robinson to “shaking hands”; as Mr. Robinson’s leaving, he haltingly barks at Ben, “You’ll pardon me if I don’t shake hands with you.” Every one of Mr. Robinson’s lines drips with cluelessness and seething rage, an unfortunate but hilarious combination.

This climaxes with his last few words to Ben, as transcribed above. To be honest, these insults are pretty accurate: Ben’s behavior throughout the film has been filthy, scummy, and degenerate; he doesn’t seem to have a moral compass or any sense of his effect on other people. But with Dustin Hoffman just standing innocuously in his apartment, it’s hard to take these slurs seriously. He’s completely justified, sure, but his anger and volume feel over-the-top. It’s a brilliant scene, if morally shifty, aligning us even further with Ben’s psychosis through the cartoonish, hysterical counterexample of Mr. Robinson. Nichols’ direction and Hamilton’s unforgettable performance mesh for a sly piece of comic trickery.

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Kicking off the summer

By Andreas

As you may have noticed, Pussy Goes Grrr has been a little quiet lately. The reasons for that can be summed up by the picture of Dustin Hoffman above. Namely: I’m in the middle of finals and preparing to graduate from college, while Ashley’s taking advantage of the lovely summer weather by going swimming. But don’t worry! You won’t be hearing the sounds of (blogging) silence much longer. By next week, we should be up and running again with pieces about The Graduate (of course), The Tree of Life, “Susie the Little Blue Coupe,” and more!

June should be an extra busy month, too, because we’ll be doing blogathons, guest posts, and plugs for our other projects. You can keep track of all this, too, by LIKING Pussy Goes Grrr over at our new Facebook page!

One last awesome note: Issue #12 of Paracinema Magazine is available for pre-order now. Head over to their website and, for only $7, you can read one fantastic article after another… including my thoughts on Derek Jarman’s post-apocalyptic punk movie Jubilee.

Wow, this summer’s starting off great, isn’t it?!

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