A night in the life of a few high school grads cruising
their small town just before they go away to college.
American Graffiti (1973)
Directed by George Lucas
Written by George Lucas, Gloria Katz, Willard Huyck
Starring Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, Paul Le Mat,
Charles Martin Smith, Cindy Williams, Candy Clark,
Harrison Ford, Mackenzie Phillips, Wolfman Jack
Oscar Nominations - Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress
(Candy Clark), Best Director, Best Original Screenplay,
Best Film Editing
American Graffiti is essentially the 50's Dazed and Confused, with a similar combination of next to no plot and a killer soundtrack. Having said that, it isn't terrible. On the contrary, it's actually quite engaging and a fun watch. Every character is perfectly cast, and we get to see a pre-fame Harrison Ford play a ridiculously charismatic street racer named Bob Falfa. I honestly didn't expect to like this, since coming-of-age movies tend to annoy me, as I don't consider teenagers to be that interesting. For more on that, check out my Lady Bird review. But now, for American Graffiti...
Those of us who went to college remember the last days of high school life, saying goodbye to our friends, most of whom we would never see again. This movie captures the bittersweet essence of that feeling perfectly and shows us how several teens aim to capture that moment and preserve it like a firefly in a bottle. It's one of the few coming-of-age stories that I could somewhat relate to, even if it does take place in the 1950's. Standouts for me include Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, and Mackenzie Phillips, but everybody deserves to be recognized for their good work.
American Graffiti was George Lucas's first big hit, just four years before Star Wars changed his life and the lives of moviegoers forever. In this film, you can see a trained eye at work preparing for something greater. But American Graffiti is still a great work in itself and something that teens today can still take something away from.