Starring: Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, Paul Le Mat
Director: George Lucas
Running Time: 112 mins
American Graffiti is an American film about a group of high schoolers who spend a night out on the town on their last night before going off to college.
Director George Lucas is of course best known for his work on Star Wars, but American Graffiti offers a window into his early passion for film, along with some of the first glimpses of a number of future stars of cinema. Nostalgic, intimate and very charismatic, the film is a wonderful coming-of-age story, embodying a generation in such a special way.
If you grew up in 1950s’ America, or have a love for the aesthetic and essence of the era, then there are likely few films out there which you’ll love more than American Graffiti. Unlike the classic likes of Rebel Without A Cause, American Graffiti looks back on the era with rose-tinted glasses, telling a passionate story about growing up in America’s heyday.
That gives the film a wonderful blend between featuring all of the tropes and characteristics of a classic ’50s movie, along with a really genuine eye for detail, and for the essence of living during that period. This isn’t a parody or a cheap throwback, but a film that sees its cast and crew almost ‘reliving’ the past before your eyes.
In tandem with its portrayal of the era, American Graffiti has all the hallmarks of a great coming-of-age movie, with challenging drama that meshes with a beautiful portrait of the carefree innocence of youth. It’s never quite as heartbreaking as Rebel Without A Cause despite many narrative parallels, but the film is no slouch when it comes to telling an emotional story.
Following the trials and tribulations of a group of friends who live through all the good and bad of growing up in their town just before they go off to college, American Graffiti paints a powerful portrait of the last years of a carefree youth, before the inevitable onset of adulthood and venturing out into the wider world.
The film strikes a great balance between beautiful, nostalgic rose-tinted glasses and a recognition that not everything was perfect ‘back in the day’, and that’s what makes it such a genuine and captivating watch.
With fantastic performances across the board, particularly from Richard Dreyfuss, Cindy Williams and Candy Clark, the film is able to count on real charisma and humour to make its often thoroughly sentimental story a really wonderful watch throughout.
In short, I really enjoyed American Graffiti. Engrossing as it is nostalgic, dramatic as it is funny, and genuine as it is a perfect embodiment of youth in the 1950s, it’s a wonderful watch from start to finish, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.5 overall.