A few years before Star Wars, George Lucas directed American Graffiti. And it was good. I mean, really good. I probably haven’t seen a more realistic and engaging movie about teenagers. In comparison to most of the other teen flicks that are really nothing but a bunch of silly comedies without any deeper sense, American Graffiti actually has a point and it’s put out on the table very clearly.
Because of the marvelous atmosphere and a truly superb soundtrack (so many fabulous songs played throughout, accompanied by one funky DJ’s comment and jokes) I wished that I could turn back time and be a teenager in one of the American cities in the 60’s era.
This coming of age tale shows the one-night journeys of a group of boys, strolling around the glistening roads of Modesto. Two of them, Curt (Richard Dreyfuss) and Steve (Ron Howard), are about to go to college back east in the morning. The first one is having some second thoughts about this big life-changing decision, while the second is really glad that he will have a chance to make a change and study someplace else. Along with John (Paul Le Mat) and Terry (Charles Martin Smith) they experience a bunch of crazy, funny and very entertaining adventures. Every one of them does something that he probably wouldn’t be able to do on a totally different night of the year. This is the one occasion that lets them do whatever they feel like doing, without any regrets. All the drinking, fighting, fooling around, stealing, picking up girls, making love – it feels like there would be no tomorrow. And in that one special night some individuals can go through a sudden transition, just to realize what they truly want in the first place.
George Lucas showed, obviously not for the last time, that his directorial skills are on the highest level. Not many directors would be able to present the overall complex and very peculiar sensations that young people are going through in such a truthful manner. The viewer can reminisce about his teenage years and relate to all the issues and emotions that the characters exhibit on screen.
All of the four main actors are simply marvelous and really convincing. Richard Dreyfuss is great as a guy, who spends the whole night looking for that one pretty girl, and eventually engages in some risky pranks with a gang trio. Ron Howard as a boy, who deals with some girlfriend problems, and ultimately understands that true happiness is right in front of him. Paul Le Mat’s adorable James Dean impersonation makes him look like a handsome and tough guy, with all the catchy taunts and car races. And the last, but probably the funniest and the coolest one – Terry (played by the amazing Charles Martin Smith), a nerdy guy who finds out that spending an amazing night with a cute girl could be easier than he thought.
All in all, American Graffiti is a splendid teen movie that is actually both funny and serious, and presents the problems of the youth in an utmost believable way. Everyone, who ever had to go trough this troubling period in a life called ‘growing up’, has to see this film, as it shows that the years of fun and freedom aren’t always exactly what they seem like.