It's the proverbial end of the summer 1962 in a small southern California town. It's the evening before best friends and recent high school graduates, Curt Henderson and Steve Bolander, are scheduled to leave town to head to college back east. Curt, who received a lucrative local scholarship, is seen as the promise that their class holds. But Curt is having second thoughts about leaving what Steve basically sees as their dead end town. Curt's beliefs are strengthened when he spots an unknown beautiful blonde in a T-bird who mouths the words "I love you" to him. As Curt tries to find that blonde while trying to get away from a local gang who have him somewhat hostage, Curt may come to a decision about his immediate future. Outgoing class president Steve, on the other hand, wants to leave, despite meaning that he will leave girlfriend, head cheerleader and Curt's sister, Laurie Henderson, behind. Steve and Laurie spend the evening "negotiating" the state of their relationship. Meanwhile... Written by
Over 100 unknown actors auditioned for Curt Henderson before Richard Dreyfuss was cast. George Lucas was impressed with Dreyfuss' thoughtful analysis of the role, and, as a result, offered the actor his choice of Curt or Terry "The Toad" Fields. See more »
Curt watches The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet on televisions in a store window, sometime close to midnight. Sitcom reruns were not late-night staples in 1962, and "Ozzie & Harriet" was never scheduled later than 9:00 PM in prime time. See more »
Hey, what do you say, Curt? Last night in town... you guys gonna have a little bash before you leave?
The Moose have been looking for you all day.
[hands a check to Curt]
They got worried... thought you were trying to avoid them or something.
What is it? What do ya got?
That's $2,000 man! Two thousand dollars!
Mr. Jennings gave it to me to give to you. He says he's sorry it's so late, but it's the first scholarship the Moose Lodge has given out. And he, uh, says they're ...
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At the start of the closing credits, the character and actor names for the main characters randomly appear in time to the opening xylophone notes of the Beach Boys' All Summer Long, which continues to play over the credits. See more »
I was born at the beginning of the next decade--1970--yet "American Graffiti" was a chord that rippled throughout my life.
My father, who, like George Lucas, grew up in California's Central Valley, said this movie perfectly captured what it was like to grow up there--street cruising, hot rodding, picking up chicks, pulling pranks. Though this movie necessarily sidesteps the boredom inherent in growing up in the pesticide-choked San Joaquin Valley, the place itself is not as important the time it explores. It was a time just before the 1960s descended into the beginning of the end of American culture--the prototypical middle America that existed in almost all its small towns and now has substantively disappeared thanks to the urbanization and suburbanization of much of this country.
The ensemble cast, including so many that went on to become hugely successful in Hollywood--Ron Howard, Cindy Williams (well, with Laverne & Shirley at least), Richard Dreyfuss, and of course Harrison Ford (not to mention Lucas himself)--is handled with great skill from such a young director and reinforces the mystery why Lucas has so horribly mishandled Star Wars Eps. I and II. Lucas simply has been at the Ranch too long and his brilliant career has arrived parked in the garage at a large, entirely perfunctory business and media empire.
Anyway, regardless of Lucas' drift far away from the cutting edge, "American Graffiti" still stands as a kind of monument to his precocity. It is the kind of movie that hits every note with effortless precision, which I think is less the effort of great editing as it is a combination of youthful exuberance and actors and a director at essentially the beginning of their ascent as some of the best in the business.
This movie also withstands the test of time simply because it works magically both for those who have no particular emotional connection to the '60s and for those who were there on nearly equal levels. There is tremendous humor and naturalistic character play and dialog that few can help but be drawn into. Anyone with any sense of history will acknowledge that all the characters are standing at the edge of the deflowering and self-destruction of America in the '60s. It is a time of tremendous innocence, change, and harrowing decisions. The Bay of Pigs, Cuban Missile Crisis, and Vietnam haven't happened yet.
With Iraq and terrorism chewing at our consciousness every day, it's pretty easy for modern youth to identify and yearn for the nostalgia of such innocence.
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