Four long years before George Lucas became a household name with every sci-fi and fantasy fan across the world, he was known for directing ‘American Graffiti’ (1973: AFI 1998 77# 2007 #62) – a coming of age drama starring a very young (and very odd choice for leading man, probably because I only associate him with the uptight Dr Leo Marvin in ‘What about Bob’) Richard Dreyfuss and Ron Howard.
Although I have yet to see Lucas’s most accomplished movie ‘Star Wars’ (1977: 1998 #15, 2007 #13), it doesn’t take a Star Woidz (which is apparently the official name given to avid Star Wars fans) to work out that the two films couldn’t be more different. Firstly ‘American Graffiti’ is set in this galaxy and the characters are far more relatable than the iconic but distant and cold characters of the sci-fi classic.
To be honest I didn’t really know what to expect when I came across the movie on Netflix, in fact before scrolling through the American Film Institute of top 100 films of all time I had never heard of it let alone knew the legendary George Lucas directed it. So it was quite a surprise to learn the man I associated with family friendly viewing directed a film about cruising in the 1960’s – although I think the term has taken a more sleazy meaning in recent years. The story follows the antics of a group of four high school graduates on the night before an undecided Curt Henderson (Dreyfuss) leaves his friends and the small town to start college with best buddy Steve Bolander (Howard). Whilst Curt goes on a self-discovery journey during the film his mates hunt for girls by driving up and down the streets in their classic chevys, which seems to be the way adolescents got acquainted before Tinder took away the thrill and excitement of courting.
The movie which is inspired by Lucas’s experiences of growing up in post-World War Two America gives an interesting insight of how teenagers perceived the world before major incidents such as the JFK shooting and Vietnam War changed attitudes. I was particularly fascinated by the predatory way guys hunted for girls in a carefree and somewhat liberal era, which couldn’t be more different from the social media tools used for pulling the opposite sex that has become the norm in today’s society.
Perhaps it’s because I didn’t know what exactly to expect when I selected the play button on Netflix or maybe it’s because I watched the movie at twelve in morning without mentally preparing myself, (which is what I have to do with each movie I watch on the AFI top 100 countdown) but I felt my mind wonder throughout the movie and nearly nodded off a few times. Although the movie had some humorous moments mostly from Paul Le Mat and the teenybopper who is fascinated by him, the film at times felt like a long car journey that wouldn’t end soon enough and for that reason I give it a 2 out 5.