L.A. Weekly obtained the hush-hush Griffin screenplay and, while it’s engaging in some places and poignant in others, there is no denying this is a gender-reversal movie premised on a fictional reality about a movie, as confusing as that sounds. It’s much more than just an homage.
For one thing, the music and lyrics — “And here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson” — from the Simon & Garfunkel song are woven in and out of many dramatic sequences. There’s even a plot denouement based on that line “You’ve got to hide it from the kids.”
For another, MacLaine plays an elderly Mrs. Robinson who decades ago had an affair with not Benjamin Braddock but Beau Burroughs (the same “BB” initials), portrayed by Costner. Burroughs was also bedding the MacLaine character’s daughter, who is now dead of lupus. Unlike The Graduate and that famous scene of Braddock pounding on the glass yelling, “Elaine! Elaine!,” in Griffin’s movie the Katharine Ross character went ahead with the original wedding. The script’s contemporary action revolves around MacLaine’s granddaughter Sarah, played by Aniston. (Stop reading here if you don’t want to know what happens.) Sarah winds up having an affair not just with Burroughs but also with Burroughs’ son. So, the intergenerational angst of The Graduate is not just repeated but also turned inside out.
It’s a far cry from that infamous cameo in Robert Altman’s The Player where Buck Henry is hilariously pitching a Graduate sequel: ‘‘Okay, here it is: The Graduate, Part II! Ben and Elaine are married still, living in a big old spooky house in Northern California somewhere. Mrs. Robinson, her aging mother, lives with them. She’s had a stroke. And they’ve got a daughter in college — Julia Roberts, maybe. It’ll be dark and weird and funny — with a stroke.’’ Later, on college campuses and at film festivals, Henry explained that he did the cameo primarily so no one would ever think of doing the sequel.
“It’s meant to be off-putting,” Henry tells L.A. Weekly. “But about 10 minutes after the first screening of The Player, some executive I didn’t know approached me, introduced himself and said, ‘I know it was a joke. But let’s talk seriously about it.’”
Everyone connected with The Graduate has been approached like that “many, many times,” Henry notes. “Dustin wanted to do the sequel. It comes up all the time, and I’ve done everything I could do to stop it. Because I think it’s bad karma. It’s cheating.”
Interestingly, Webb, now a recluse and in need of money, is reportedly considering writing a sequel to his first novel.
There’s an old adage in Hollywood power circles that if you’re going to remake or update a movie from the library, avoid the great films and look at the bad ones. Why? Because the conventional wisdom is that you can’t improve on great films, but there must have been a good enough idea in the bad ones for the studio to want to make them in the first place.
But a sequel to this film? As the song said, “Ev’ry way you look at it you lose.”