Classic Scene: Mrs. Robinson
Directed by Mike Nichols
The Scene: Seeing a way to escape the unrelatable adults his parents have invited to his college graduation party, Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) agrees to take the infamously flirty housewife Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft) back to her home. Once there Mrs. Robinson sets her trap. She asks the young man what he thinks about. When Benjamin answers he has always thought she was a “very nice person” she informs him she was an alcoholic. That is when things get weird and Benji wants to leave, but the lonely housewife exerts her power over him. She finally cuts to the chase by telling him that her husband will not be back for several hours. What follows is the graduate stammering and pacing around before finally saying the immortal line “Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to seduce me…..aren’t you?”
Breakdown: Even if you have never seen this masterpiece of a coming-of-age flick you are undoubtedly familiar with this particular scene. The iconic under the leg shot focusing on Dustin Hoffman is one of the great images in cinema. Many may be surprised this classic moments hits fairly early in the movie, despite this it has had the perfect build up. Mrs. Robinson began her game previously at the Braddock home, but now the naive young man is right where she wants him. Dustin Hoffman’s famously plain and lowkey performance paid off in spades during this scene. He is an awkward young man who does not know what to do, he compliments her “very pleasant” living room and makes small talk with the older woman. This makes him the perfect prey for a confident Anne Bancroft who dominates the scene. As he paces around stuttering and stammering, she casually watches and judges him pondering her next move. Bancroft beat out a number of other Hollywood legends for this role, including: Joan Crawford, Lauren Bacall, Audrey Hepburn, Debra Kerr, and countless others. The Oscar nomination she gained from this performance was certainly well deserved.
Best Bit: The awkwardness with which Dustin Hoffman delivers his now famous line. Especially after he follows up his statement with “…aren’t you?”
Ben overcomes his social awkwardness by having an affair with Mrs. Robinson. She gets a boy toy, and he changes as a person.