Michael Stuhlman’s review published on Letterboxd:
It's been a bit since I last watched The Graduate. And even the last time I watched it I feel like I wasn't giving it my 100% attention. The movie has a well known reputation for being a comedy film, but this time around I found it tone closer to the drama side of things, edging on pure dark comedy.
In some sense I think I'm beginning to subscribe a bit to the thinking of the great Roger Ebert, who came to see a swap in roles between Bancroft and Hoffman. In the beginning it's painstakingly obvious that Mrs. Robinson is in the cougar role. She is looking for an outlet. We don't really find out why until later, but for the first section the film she is 100% in control.
Then, after the two finally do the big deed, I noticed a massive shift in dynamic through two scenes. The first is the losing of Ben's virginity, with a dreamy sequence of Ben finally floating on the water (as opposed to being under it as we've seen up to this point) and shifting between his life at home and his life in the hotel room now with Mrs Robinson. The whole sequence is punctuated by an outstanding use of Simon and Garfunkel's April Come She Will. We get the passage of time as well as the literal shift in persona on Hoffman's face.
The second scene that truly shifts the dynamic is, I believe, the final time the two meet in the hotel room. This is where Bancroft truly gets the moment to shine and steals the scene totally from Hoffman. She conveys so much through such simple, painful, sadness in her eyes. The conversation concerning where the two are at, how they feel about this morally, and the prospect of Mrs. Robinson's returning daughter Elaine.
Now normally, this first half of the movie or so is where I consider things to be at a perfect pacing. Moving into the second half is where I usually start to take some minor issues with the films somewhat outdated techniques and mindsets. Even some of the plot points I began to question as usual. The idea of wanting to get married after a single date seems antiquated on the surface, even if it ties in with Ben's act first think second mindset. Perhaps my largest issue with this part is Ben essentially stalking Elaine and this being perceived as "healthy" or "loving". Perhaps thats just a ploy to lure us into thinking these two might have a chance after all. Maybe Ben really can stop the wedding and get the girl of his dreams! Fortunately the film doesn't take the easy way out, and while I never found Ben sympathetic to begin with, this time I found him downright unlikable.
You see after the dynamic shifts I don't believe that Ben is still the dewey eyed moon cow that he is in the beginning. He gets cocky, he gets arrogant and reckless. While some people see this movie in a negative light because of the way it portrays Mrs Robinson as a predator, i'm beginning to realize thats a false analysis. Mrs Robinson, is a depressed, alcoholic and lonely woman who puts on the facade of being the strong, controlling type, but as the film wears on and the mask breaks down we see just how damaged she is. Ben was so clearly taking advantage of her by the end I'm surprised I never read it this way before.
It's all completely punctuated by that final shot. The happy couple on the bus, finally beat the mean, cliche adults who wanted to tell them what to do, only to sit for a moment and realize just how naive and downright stupid their thinking is. As Elaine looks over to Ben with hope in her eyes and Ben looks straight ahead, never looking at her, we see all the pain he's caused to others rush into his headspace. He fucked up. He know's it, and he's not likely to admit it at this point. Yet the two go on towards an uncertain future, and one I picture is just the beginning of his own misery.