Review: American Graffiti (1973)

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Graffiti is only good if it’s European, or Vietnamese, but not if it’s American!

Written By: Willard Huyck, Gloria Katz, & George Lucas
Directed By: George Lucas

The first thing I want to get out of the way is that the music in American Graffiti is superb. I have no qualms declaring American Graffiti to be the best collection of popular music ever on film. Yes, you have standards like The Beach Boys, but the fact that Booker T. & the MG’s is included made my day. The music in American Graffiti is iconic and despite being a child of the 1980′s, I do have every song that was played in the movie on my iPod, because awesome music is awesome music. However, the great music comes with a drawback, it does distract from the film. You can’t help but go, “Oh, that song is awesome” and then realize you’ve once again lost sight of what is going on in the movie in favor of the music. Tremendous collection of pop music, but still distracting.

My main problem with American Graffiti comes in the form of Richard Dreyfuss. There’s nothing wrong with his performance, I actually felt his performance along with that of Paul Le Mat helped to hold the movie together. However, I did have a major problem with his look. Curt ends up looking like he belonged in the year the movie was released, 1973, as opposed to the year the film is supposed to take place in, 1962. In other ways American Graffiti comes across as a movie lost in time, it wants to be knowing of what is to come in the future, while at the same time trying to appear like 1962 California but seeming more like 1955 California. The times do meld, and the times were changing, but I felt the knowing nature of the film was a bit too much to take. Those kids don’t know what’s coming in their future, they shouldn’t act knowing in any way. It’s a trap of modern cinema to have period pieces where the characters talk and act as if they are in special knowledge of what the future holds. The world doesn’t work that way; when I graduated I wasn’t knowing in any way of what the future would hold, I didn’t walk around in a morose state with the knowledge that my father would die, or that the world would change so quickly. Life isn’t knowing, life is discovery, and there was too much knowing in American Graffiti and not enough discovery.

The above being true, I still liked the light tone of American Graffiti and did think it was a fun movie to watch. It just isn’t the all-time classic that others have made it out to be. American Graffiti is a fun movie to sit back with and enjoy the tunes, and the fast nature of the times. It’s not the greatest movie ever, but, and I know I sound like a broken record, it is a fun look at the changing of the times that took place in the early 1960′s and an overall enjoyable movie.

Rating:

***

Cheers,
Bill Thompson

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