American Graffiti is a hip, young, 1960’s of a film directed by George Lucas before he went all Star Wars crazy and never directed another thing afterwards. Starring Richard Dreyfuss and “Ronny” Howard, as he is credited in the opening titles, it tells the story of a group of high schoolers on one last night on the town before they all go their separate ways. The story is told through a series of intertwining vignettes; each of the four main characters has their own story arc, which all comes together in the final act where everyone finds resolution. Basic movie formula, put to good use here.
The film is such an encapsulation of an era that you’ll have flashbacks of carhops, cruisers and sweet surfer rock’n’roll. To help along this photographic vision of a time gone by, the film uses a lot of thick, saturated colors that ember like muted neon signs in the windows of a fast food joint. The actors each embody an archetype of the 60’s high schooler group, and each has their traits and weaknesses that they explore throughout the film. Most of all is the soundtrack, which contains some of the biggest hits of the early 1960’s and really puts the film into the mindset it’s in.
American Graffiti shows a lot about the 60’s counter-culture it so perfectly embodies, but what American Graffiti shows most of all is promise, the promise of a young up and coming director who had the talent to join the ranks of Martin Scorsese, Brian De Palma, and Steven Spielberg, but passed it up and sold his soul for monetary gluttony. I’m filled with mixed emotions after seeing this; it’s a great film, one that holds its own place in film lore, but it also pisses me off that Lucas essentially threw away his career for selfish gain. If I ever make it into the industry and I get in that sort of position, you all have every right to smack me upside the head if I even think about doing the same thing.
Arbitrary Rating: 8/10