A couple of high school grads spend one final night cruising the strip with their buddies before they go off to college.A couple of high school grads spend one final night cruising the strip with their buddies before they go off to college.A couple of high school grads spend one final night cruising the strip with their buddies before they go off to college.
The Life and Times of Harrison Ford
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.
- Jun 1, 2004