American Graffiti was intended to be a coming-of-age, teenage film designed to fill everyone with nostalgia and joy. As well as being one of the early pioneers of using songs rather than a traditional sound track.
It did both of these with aplomb.
However, this film served a greater purpose. A more noble purpose. This film launched the careers of actors who would go on to star in some of our favourite movies of all time. See below!
Harrison Ford – STAR WARS, INDIANA JONES, E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL**
Richard Dreyfuss – JAWS, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, ALWAYS
** Harrison Ford played a headteacher in E.T. who was eventually cut from the film. BUT COME ON SPIELBERG ITS JUST GETTING LAZY NOW!
Without this film Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Jaws, Close Encounters would have been cast completely differently and given how brilliant these roles still are it’s not hard to imagine that any other actor would have RUINED EVERYTHING!
Anyway! ON TO THE REVIEW!
American Graffiti, directed by George Lucas, is set during the 1962 American summer and tells the tale of a group of teenagers during their time between High School graduation and joining the real-world either starting a job, leaving town or heading to college. For me this period was in 2009, yet despite being set in the 60’s this film still perfectly captures the confusion, awkwardness and social pressures associated with being 17 or 18. The cast, consisting of relatively unknown actors, perfectly portray being young, naive and unworldly whilst having a yearning desire to to act, be treated and respected like an adult.
The film interweaves several plot-lines throughout the same night and is fast-paced and funny, but not at the expense of actual character development, something of a rarity these days with most comedy films falling flat on all counts (see Sex Tape, Grown-Ups, Paul Blart). Some of my personal highlights:
Richard Dreyfuss as Curt, a guy unsure if he wants to leave for college in the morning. He is charming, entertaining and likeable. He spends the night desperately trying to find the ”blonde in a white T-Bird’ that he drove past. Something anyone who has used public transport will understand. Most of us, however, move on to the next loving daydream. Instead, Curt ends up catching a ride, kissing a girl, getting roped into a gang for scratching a car and that’s just for starters. That is more effort than I’d be willing to put in for a fleeting glance on the street. But maybe I’m a pessimist!
John, Paul Le Mat, manages to pick up a young teenage girl, Carol, whilst on the lookout for some female company. Carol is the epitome of an annoying teenager and constantly provokes and irritates John to the point of exasperation. This is made worse by the fact John is hopelessly still trying to find some more mature company. In a very Game Of Thrones-esque style, this sibling rivalry-like relationship morphs into something less wholesome. This story line is central to the films climax with a hot rod race between John and Bob Falfa (Harrison Ford) a car enthusiast whose sole purpose is too aggravate everyone. The car he drives is the objectification of overcompensation!
I think my favourite story line is the romantically inept, hopeless and lost ‘Toad’. He is lent an exceptional car by a friend and suddenly finds himself playing the part of a Casanova, albeit with bigger teeth, hipster glasses and worse hair. Completely committed to the part, and emboldened by excess booze, he manages to pick up a girl and starts lying and exaggerating his way into Debbie’s heart, including the age old story of a man selling his horses to by a nice car to get a girl?! Eventually, ”His” car is stolen and all his lies gradually come under scrutiny. Toad, in full survival mode, creates more and more ludicrous and hilarious lies to cover them up. I think every teenager can remember a time when we’ve done this and been caught out. We all back-peddled faster than Nigel Farage’s PR machine.
BUT MY FAVOURITE CHARACTER IS THE SOUNDTRACK!
An early pioneer of using songs rather than a typical soundtrack. There are very few films whose soundtrack presents such a clear and undiluted picture of the society at the time. This Americana paradise is pre-Vietnam, pre-British Blues/Rock, pre-peak of the civil rights movement and you can tell. The choices in music are little screenshots of the time. Granted screenshots of a solely white place and time, but that’s for another time (from someone who knows more than I). I dread to thing what a modern-day version of this film would be:
”The story of teenagers getting drunk on Strongbow and Lambrini in a dark and dreary park, losing their virginity behind a bin (as well as their I Phone 5 in someones garden), all whilst trying to get served in a local pub and not be sick in your parents car!
Featuring the hits: ‘We Can’t Stop’ , ‘Booty’ , ‘Wiggle’, ‘You Don’t Know You’re Beautiful’ and ‘Anaconda’
Starring: Justin Bieber as Obnoxious Youth with a High Pitched Auto-tune Voice
ALL 5…. oh shit All 4 MEMBERS OF ONE DIRECTION as wailing Foetus’s 1 through 4
Miley Cyrus as girl passed out in the corner
AND Joey Essex as responsible adult number 1”
The prospect of this makes me want to remove my eyes, ears, nose and scalp with a rusty tea-spoon!
Aside from the soundtrack the other major characters are the cars featured. They are beautiful and eye-catching and really do serve as an extension of their respective driver’s personality. Toad’s borrowed White Chevy Impala for his borrowed bravado. John’s bold Yellow hot-rod just crying out for attention. And Bob Falfa’s black, obnoxious, ominous supercharged car because he is a ginormous dickhead!
Overall, this film is charming, funny and endearing. Couple that with great direction, soundtracks and acting and what you have is very special!
RATING: ”YOU GOT A BITCHIN’ RIDE”