American Graffiti Reviews
November 27, 2009
Sort of a cant hardly wait from an older generation. The characters are very interesting and it is just a wonderful slice of life.
February 22, 2010
(First viewing - Fall 2001)
July 24, 2014
It's hard to remember a time when a teenager's Friday night consisted of hanging at the local drive-in and terms like 'going steady' or ' boss' were frequently used, especially for this generation. Much of the youth these days are so attached to their phones (and technology in general) that unlike the kids of the 60s, have been robbed of so many weekends of just aimlessly driving with friends and having the luxury of nowhere to go. And often, movies that try to capture those picturesque moments in time aren't successful and there's only been a few gems over the years that have done it. One in particular that jumpstarted the careers of many of the young actors involved and is a sort of love-story dedicated to that time period, is "American Graffiti".
Spanning only one night in the lives of a group of high school graduates, some that may be going off to college and others with no plan whatsoever, it perfectly encapsulates that crucial time of indecision when finally leaving the nest may not seem like the smartest idea. We also see many relationships (whether romantic or not) be put to the test, as most of the main characters are trying to figure out who are really important to them as they move into adulthood. But the one thing that I certainly took away from the film, and you should to, is that that move isn't as easy as it looks.
And the ensemble of great actors express that magnificently, with the standout being Richard Dreyfuss. George Lucas also directs beautifully, keeping all the various stories balanced and bringing them to a nice resolution, proving that some films are timeless enough to remain relevant today.
July 20, 2014
A wonderfully written period piece for teens , filled with nostalgia and the classic 50s feel to it , "American Graffiti" will be one of the good films realized by George Lucas - a movie made with the heart in the right place
July 19, 2014
a deeply nostalgic coming of age drama, but I'm not a real fan of coming of age stories that take place in one day.
July 14, 2014
Before he became one of the industry's most financially successful filmmakers, most notably through his Star Wars and Indiana Jones series, George Lucas was a name nearly nobody had heard of. Lucas made his directorial debut in 1971 with the dystopian sci-fi film THX-1138. Paired with mixed critical reception and mediocre results at the box office, the film went under the radar until it slowly became a cult classic. However, one misstep wasn't enough to stop the young filmmaker, who promptly pumped out another film, this time a coming-of-age drama entitled American Graffiti. American Graffiti fared better upon theatrical release, and for good reason: Lucas managed to craft a perfect representation of the cruising, rock and roll culture of the early 1960s.
American Graffiti chronicles four young teens having a night on their California town following their high school graduation. Curt Henderson has received a $2,000 scholarship and is debating going out east to attend college. Steve Bolander, Curt's longtime friend, is having problems with his girlfriend, Curt's sister Laurie, upon planning to go to school with Curt. John Milner, in his '32 Deuce Coupe, decides to use his time cruising around the town. Like John, the nerdy Terry "The Toad" Fields decides to cruise, only he has to borrow Steve's 1958 Chevy Impala due to his lack of his own car.
As the night progresses, the lives of the teens change as their last night of innocence comes to a close. Curt gets wrapped up with a group of greasers and a mysterious blonde girl in a white Thunderbird. Steve continues to figure out his relationship with Laurie. John finds himself stuck with Carol, a teenybopper who he's not terribly fond of. Terry overcomes his social awkwardness with girls when he meets the flirtatious Debbie. What follows is 112 minutes of humor, nostalgia, and coming-of-age for the on-screen characters, and even the viewers.
Written by Lucas himself, along with Gloria Katz and Willard Huyck, American Graffiti's screenplay executes all of the necessary elements of a coming-of-age story perfectly. The various plotlines are all unique and relatable, giving viewers a further something to relate to in an already relatable concept of being on the brink of adulthood. Characters are vibrant and full of personality, allowing them all to be entertaining during viewing, as well as easily remembered well after viewing. All this grouped with a bittersweet tone make for one of Lucas' better screenplays.
All of the performances in American Graffiti are spot-on in delivery. Taking the lead is Richard Dreyfuss, who plays the role of Curt perfectly. Dreyfuss is excellent in conveying the anxious "good kid" mannerisms of the character he portrays as he teeters between going to college or sticking around his hometown, earning him a Golden Globe nomination for his efforts. Ron Howard (known then as Ronny Howard), known for The Andy Griffith Show and Happy Days, is also brilliant, showing his dramatic range as an actor as he, like Curt, considers his own future. Also helping steal the spotlight is Candy Clark as Debbie, the flirtatious and rebellious opposite to Charles Martin Smith's Terry. She really embodies the blonde girl who just wants to have fun, earning her a well-deserved Best Supporting Actress nomination at the Oscars. Also worth pointing out are the performances of Paul Le Mat as the James Dean-esque John and Harrison Ford as a street racing greaser. Yes, THE Harrison Ford.
Having grown up in the time period portrayed in the film, George Lucas masterfully recreates the culture of the early 1960s, an era full of post-World War II baby boomers. The streets are lined with pre-1960s cars and neon lit buildings, including the now famous Mel's Drive-In, adding to the night atmosphere of the story. The soundtrack is also full of classic rock and roll hits, including the ever famous Buddy Holly, The Beach Boys, and Chuck Berry. The cinematography is also superb, really bringing out stunning imagery in each shot. It may have been filmed ten years after the time period it's set in, but American Graffiti really makes it hard to tell.
American Graffiti was a huge success, making $144 million on a budget of less than $1,000 and earning five Academy Award nominations, including the coveted Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay. It's a shame the film left empty-handed, because American Graffiti is certainly deserving of any of, if not all of, these awards. While Lucas would go on to handle the massive Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises, American Graffiti still stands as one of his finer outings. Well-written, well-acted, and well-directed, the film is certainly one of the best coming-of-age films out there.
July 16, 2014
Lucas is frighteningly confident. The terrible use of day-for-night in one scene only serves to contrast how beautiful the actual nighttime cinematography really is. Classic from the moment it was released.
July 1, 2014
It may be a generation thing but it wasn't my favorite coming of age film. The cast is great and entertaining though
June 10, 2014
The original teen nostalgia flick.
May 26, 2014
Although I was unfortunately born 35 years after the glorious days of 1962 USA, "American Graffiti" feels authentic to its era and all the while remaining extremely entertaining. A simple film filled with future acting legends living up there last day until they have to face college and the real world. The soundtrack is fantastic, making it easy to be engrossed with the time and places not so long ago, but far evolved from today.
May 10, 2014
(62(it had to be)%)
"Where were you in in 62?" Nowhere I wasn't born yet. A confusing aspect here is that if Lucas wrote this, then how can he explain the crappy scripts of the Star wars prequels? This is a rose-tinted trip back to when cars were made of metal and music had to be at least half decent to get on the radio. There isn't a whole lot to the story as most of the characters spend a large spell of the run-time driving up and down their town looking for fun, but it's well acted/made, and the tragic sense that the simple fun days of the character's youth are coming to an end and will never return is handled well. It's overly nostalgic, but funny at times and sweet-natured, although I'd have liked some more meat on the bones.
September 9, 2007
American Graffiti is an American classic. Its a nostalgic look at moving out of the house and moving to bigger things, as four friends stay up all night and get into all sorts of shenanigans. Johnny Milner is one of the coolest movie characters of all time, and the movie doesn't go over the top with the subplots but still remains funny and suspenseful. With a jukebox of 60's music to back up this fun coming-of-age movie, American Graffiti stands the test of time.
December 20, 2007
This was a pretty cool film
April 1, 2014
What a Classic, love it everytime.
October 29, 2007
Perfectly captures both of its era and of the confused feeling of being a recent high school grad.
November 19, 2007
This classic film watched today was not near as good as Im sure it was back when it first came out. This film started the teenage/high school films we know today full of nonsense, drinking, girls and racing. It was great to see big name actors like Harrison Ford and Ron Howard in their early film days and even back then they really brought something special to the screen. The storyline was nothing new (although back in the 70's Im sure it was) but everything was fun and entertaining and it had some great oldies songs. If you want to see a movie that started a genre and see some of your favorite actors in their early years, check this one out for nostalgia.
February 14, 2014
I didn't find it influential or even funny, but as for coming of age films, I enjoyed "The Last Picture Show" more.
February 9, 2014
In this generation, when we think of George Lucas, we see Star Wars, Indiana Jones, THX, science fiction, and visual effects. What most people don't know is his little work on 1973 called American Graffiti. Pure Lucas fans have probably known about this film and have probably watched it. I came into this with excitement, it'll give us something fun with an amazing story, which is commonly found in all of his other films. Sadly after watching this a couple of times, it never created a huge impact on me and was sorely disappointed with it.
The film was written by George Lucas along with Gloria Katz and Willard Huyck. They have written a story that is centred around the culture and youth of the early 1960s. This was an interesting choice in year, because along with the film's story of the last night before heading off, it was also the time when the culture of the youth has started to shift to this more serious and mature take on things. Music, films and art during this time were becoming much more experimental, and was going in a direction that will forever change the perspectives of America's youth. American Graffiti is a story of change. How each character is handling the situation of become an adult and having responsibilities. Curt's story is definitely a highlight because it touches on the themes of change, responsibility, attachment to the past, unattainable love, and maturity. This is where I was truly having the most fun, as it was so entertaining to watch a man who is so stuck to the past because he knows it's safe and reliable. But also he was reluctant on leaving because he feels there is still something that he has missed out on and hasn't truly captured the full experience of his youth. It's as if he knew that ahead would be a bad road and this is the only opportunity he has left to suck all of this in. A lot of people can relate to his problems and those issues are still present in today's youth. We all know that after we graduate, things will start to change, not just us but also the environment that surrounds us. Teenage years in each generation is different and one can't predict how it would turn out next. This is why Curt, and also us the viewers, were so attached to the past as it seems to be a time where things were fun and we never felt more safer. Also that moment with the DJ was a great moment. Milner's story on the other hand was more as a sub plot, and is only present for a fun and hilarious ride, though others may see it differently as there could be more in the story between him and the young girl, like a clash of two cultures. My main issue with the film lies on the lack of an interesting story, aside from Curt and John's. There was never a point where I cared about the relationship between Steve and Laurie and to whatever was happening to both of them throughout the film lacked drama. It needed a bit more story or plot in order for me to empathise for these characters' personal intentions. I never felt it was clear on why he wanted to cheat on her in the first place, which had me thinking about it throughout the film. Terry's story about his desperation to be different and cool, was a let down. It never really taught me anything and the events that unfold was just not interesting. I never found the character hilarious or empathetic, instead I just felt pitiful for him. The film also doesn't have a central plot, which kind of bummed me out and found it a bit difficult to be excited for an ending. Also the climax of the film, the race, was so disappointing and there wasn't enough hype built up around it that it just came off as a forced attempt to show an action sequence. I thought it was gonna end great, with a shot from the plane looking down at the white car, but instead it adds a written narration filling up the screen detailing on what have become of them. I never thought that this was necessary, because it was already clear that the film wanted to say that it's important to move on and gain a sense of closure to this chapter of your life. The dialogue for this film is a hit and miss for me, as some moments felt natural and nostalgic and others just felt over the top and irritating to listen to. True, that this can also be in fault of the actor's ability to deliver it, like the actor who played Carol, but there were just times that felt a bit off and took me out of it.
The film was directed by George Lucas, and this was coming off his debut film THX 1138. Lucas wanted this film to be true nostalgia and really have us be immersed in the period. This is where I was a bit annoyed by this, as Lucas put so much emphasis on the nostalgia, that it kind of drives us away from the story from time to time. This was one of the reasons why I found it hard to care for the story of these characters. Lucas also didn't balance the film right. Normally a film would have a more concentrated story, with maybe a few subplots surrounding it but never to a point of main emphasis. The film should have put most of it's focus on Curt's story, as his is the one that truly meant something and the one that the audience is mainly rooting for, but instead the film juggles back and forth too frequently on others that we end up forgetting the development that was happening in the other story. The film also felt quite slow at times, but this mostly due to it's poor and non-engaging script, and Lucas could have trimmed the film around 20-30 minutes of it in order to move the film along at a better pace. If Lucas had put more focus on the film's main theme and repeatedly touching on it, then it would have been an entertaining film, and I would have forgiven the film for it's lack of driving plot. I also was disappointed with the director's execution of the race scene at the end, as he wasn't able to build any excitement on the build up and during the actual race. The film may feel accessible but once you get in, you don't take much out with you.
The film's cinematography was handled by both Jan D'Alquen and Ron Eveslage. This film and It Ain't Easy were the only films that they have worked on. The film's photography was average, as there was very little to praise about. The good aspects were that the film truly captures the period it was set in, along with the amazing production design, it looked truly authentic and beautiful.The colors truly pop, and it is very rare to see a shot in the film that felt depressing or dark, as Lucas wanted this film to stay with it's optimistic tone. The shots chosen didn't really show anything more of it's characters, as how the actors project them on the surface is pretty much it. The cinematographers just want to show what is needed in order to tell the story and not add anything stylistic or a sense of depth to it, which was quite disappointing.
The film doesn't consist of an original score but instead takes the soundtrack approach, which was a great decision. In order for Lucas to have us believe that it's the late 50s-early 60s, is to play the music that was popular during the period, and he has chosen some great tracks. Most are quite upbeat and campy, this is what gives the film the energy that prevented this form being a total disaster. There are very few moments in the film that doesn't contain a song playing in the background, almost like listening to the radio. Once a song ends, it's not long before it starts again.
The acting in this film was quite good, with most of them showing a little more than what is required in order to sell the role. All characters may look like stereotypical characters of that era but the actors make them feel grounded and relatable. They don't feel too distant from the youth of today. Richard Dreyfuss has always had this youth quality to him, and he shows it here. Dreyfuss shows this uncertainty ,that we have all felt when we were at his age, of the future and what lies ahead. He plays a man who wants to keep his youth as he gains comfort from it. His performance was definitely the best in this film. Ron Howard as Steve was fine, and so was Cindy Williams as Laurie. The chemistry between the two was believable and both have a youthful look which allowed their relationship to not seem too mature. Paul Le Mat was fun to watch as his clashing with Mackenzie Phillips was hilarious and for the most part fun. Charles Martin Smith was quite annoying to watch as I felt he was over the top and tries to be funny, but his comedic execution was kind of off.
I think this film would be more appreciated to the people who experienced this generation, as at the time of release, it come off as a photobook of such recalling the trademarks and unique aspects of that time period. I personally was disappointed with this film, I felt like this could have been more.
July 5, 2012
A wonderful coming of age movies with an intelligent script.