My parents have always been fans of classic cars, drive-in movies and restaurants where they’ll deliver a rootbeer float on roller-skates to your car. But they were teenagers of the seventies, those were already long gone for them. This movie feels like a time machine. The neon lights, beautiful shined up classic cars and food delivered on roller skates. It’s amazing. I mean, what a great idea, to just cruise around real slow, picking up chicks. It looks like a parade down Main street all night! And to think, there was a time where it was cool to dance at the dance. What a fantastic time to live in.
American Graffiti is a coming of age story set in 1962 filled with a variety of adventures in this little town. Curt (Richard Dreyfuss) and Steve (Ron Howard) are leaving for college in the morning; it’s their one chance to get out of that little town. But Curt’s got cold feet, he’s very sentimental about his home, so he looks around for advice. Steve is more willing to go, but he’s got some loose ends he needs to take care of before leaving. He’s got to take care of his girlfriend Laurie (Cindy Williams) and make sure they can see other people while they’re apart. “It would strengthen our relationship. Then we’d know for sure that we’re really in love. Not that there’s any doubt.” And Steve gives his friend Terry (Charles Martin Smith) the responsibility of taking care of his car, which leads to Terry meeting a hot blonde chick and some adventures about teenagers trying to attain booze.
There’s also John Miller (Paul Le Mat) rolling around in his yellow Coupe, the fastest in town. While he’s cruising for chicks, he gets stuck with a girl about twelve years old, but that might be the best way to have fun in this town. John is being sought after by Bob Falfa (Harrison Ford), looking for a drag race.
The film seems to be in a world where nothing is more important than cars, cruising, chicks and rock and roll. Even the prospect of going to college doesn’t seem to match cruising around town. And when Curt sees a blonde beauty driving a white Thunderbird looking back at him, ah! It’s like the sky parted and angels sang just for him. How can he leave this place when that girl is out there?
When I watch this, it’s so sad to think that times like these are gone. Kids today can’t get away from their hovering parents long enough to cruse the town without getting twenty texts asking when they’ll be home. Besides, there’s no where to hang out anyway. And if you look at the girls in car next to you, they think you’re a stalker and they’ll get out the mace.
Teenagers today might find the whole film completely-backwards. Today, college is where you go to get booze, drugs and chicks and only losers stay around town after high school. But back then it was only a choice few who left town for better things and made the idea of leaving home more daunting.
American Graffiti is not a film to easily dismiss. This put George Lucas on the map but few Star Wars fans branch out of their galaxy to see this film. The more I think about it, American Graffiti may be the most important film of the 1970’s. Without it, there would have been no Star Wars, which completely changed the film industry. Even if you don’t look to the future, by 1973 the innocence that American Graffiti portrays was completely gone. And Lucas brought it back, as if to say, “Look at what we’ve lost.” I recommend American Graffiti for everyone.
“You’re the most beautiful, exciting thing I’ve ever seen in my life and I don’t know anything about you.”