Every Friday I recommend an entertaining, slow-paced movie from no later than 1985 to help you unwind at the end of the week in our fast-paced world.
This week’s recommendation is 1973’s “American Graffiti,” about a group of high school friends at the end of summer in 1962 who want to enjoy one more great night in their home town before two of them go away to college. There’s Curt, the quiet, thoughtful one who is unsure about leaving; Steve, who is in a serious relationship with Curt’s sister Laurie and wants to see other people in college; Laurie, who doesn’t like that idea; Terry “The Toad,” a guy low on the social ladder who is thrilled at the possibilities presented by taking care of Steve’s car while the latter is away; John, who is older than the rest and alarmed that everything is slipping away, while also dealing with a middle school girl named Carol who won’t leave him alone, as well as a racing rival who is new to him but very familiar to us.
I know this is my second recommendation directed by George Lucas, but I thought why not. Produced by Francis Ford Coppola and Gary Kurtz, edited by Verna Fields and Marcia Lucas, with sound editing by Walter Murch, and starring a very young Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard and Cindy Williams, with some excellent cameos along the way, this is a movie you really should catch.
“American Graffiti” is wonderful to watch because it does so much with its premise and goes beyond our expectations for what it can bring. The movie has an interesting ensemble of characters in which everyone has their own distinct motivations and points of view, with storylines that constantly diverge and come back together again. It has great, colorful shots, and a pace that, like the time it tries to capture, is very fleeting—the soundtrack actually drifts by with the cars and fades into the night as they do—and it can also be very fast, yet the movie really seems to take its time for the characters. Everything is very vivid, and it takes you to some very great places. Its identity feels very cool and unique, even though many of its elements have been done many times.
It’s awesome from beginning to end.
Plus you can see where “Happy Days” came from—although this is a much more nuanced, honest and sensitive look at that moment in history. Not to mention that “American Graffiti” is actually funny.
And that’s a good movie night.
After all that, if you still need something retro to satisfy your movie appetite until next week, check out my previous recommendations:
Let me know what you think of this week’s recommendation and stay tuned!
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