A couple of high school grads spend one final night cruising the strip with their buddies before they go off to college.
I’ve never kept it a secret that, as a filmmaker, George Lucas infuriates me. Someday I’ll write an entire post on the subject. Anyway, I tried not to let my feelings about George Lucas influence my feelings of this film American Graffiti.
In my personal opinion, this is not a film that has aged well. Some of the themes have, like all of the coming-of-age stuff and small town American life vs. the possibility of something more, but I just feel that the characters are lacking, save for maybe the character of Curt. I feel that the films main focus isn’t so much kids coming of age in small town America, but more so a love for cars and music. Cars are everywhere in this film, and they play a central part. Between the cars and the music CONSTANTLY playing throughout the film, I’m not gonna lie, I was a bit irritated.
Now, I know that this film, along with Easy Rider, were large influences on the films that came after them in regards to music. These two films were the first two to use the music of the time, instead of a composed score. The thing is, with Easy Rider for instance, the music is played at specific times, in order to impact the scene. In American Graffiti it seems like music is playing constantly because, well, it is. The disc jockey Wolfman Jack is playing from every car radio and at every hang-out spot. To me, having music constantly play really doesn’t help it become meaningful, and I prefer soundtracks that think about song placement. American Graffiti just has music playing throughout. So much so that, honestly, I feel like it really just starts to become background noise.
Visually, the film is fine. I mean, it doesn’t really do anything for me, but I also don’t hate it.
I’m going to make a bold statement: the characters only work due to the actors portraying them. On paper, those characters are flat. Hell, in the movie they’re all pretty flat, too. Ron Howard and Richard Dreyfuss do a fine enough job. Mackenzie Phillips is wonderful. Her and Dreyfuss’s characters may be the only ones that didn’t bore me to death, though.
This film is greatly unbalanced in regards to male and female. It does bother me that the only end title card we get is an update on the men’s characters. I want to know what came of Laurie and Debbie and Carol. The film is an ensemble piece and half of the ensemble is left out. But, with Lucas, I don’t know what else I was expecting, honestly.
What do you think? Do you enjoy the film? Or do you also think it’s a “one-time viewing just to say you saw it” kind of film?