Movie #185 2020: American Graffiti (1973)

American Graffiti comes with a recommendation from the BBC’s Mark Kermode as one of the best coming-of-age movies of all time.

Set in California, the movie throws us into the lives of a bunch of teens who have just graduated and are spending their last night cruising around their home town before they all go off to college. We are presented with snippets of the lives of various young men and some of the young ladies they encounter, whilst we are forced to look at the idea of a romantic relationship when you’re only seventeen.

Before we get into the nitty gritty, I have to point one small thing out. This movie boasts George Lucas directing, Francis Ford Coppola producing, and Ron Howard starring… Why not just throw Hitchcock on the boom mic and Fellini in the art department while you’re at it?! There are stars everywhere in this. Of course, no one really knew how big these stars would become, as this premiered comfortably before Star Wars even started filming.

So, what are the good things about this movie?

One of the best parts of this is a soundtrack that perfectly encapsulates the sounds of yesteryear. The sound plus the beautiful cars (😍) are used as a vehicle for the audience to really get in the 1960s mindset, and just so happen to be the best parts of the movie. Plus, there’s a little side-role played by none other than a pre-Han Solo Harrison Ford, and it’s always nice to see him.

American Graffiti is clearly one of those movies that’s of social and cultural importance (the National Film Registry agrees with that), but it’s just not aged super well. It’s definitely of its time, though I do understand why you’d love it had you grown up around the sixties.  Nowadays though, with movies like Lady Bird and Eighth Grade, it just doesn’t cut the mustard with a modern audience.

What’s really cool here is that it all takes place over one evening, emulating some of the most interesting films cinema has ever seen. On the other hand, I understand that it’s an attempt to document the move from your home town to college but… it’s just too uneventful and lacking in plot for me to enjoy it any more than I did. Again, to a modern audience, this isn’t exactly thrilling.

After researching, I discovered that this movie was actually used by George Lucas to fund his passion project for a certain ‘space opera’ movie, and by earning $140 million in box office sales off his $777,000 budget, I would say that he succeeded in doing so. If this is what it takes to finance Star Wars, I’d watch it another thirty times in support.

Overall, I have to award 3 Qs for the soundtrack, the way it portrays the time period, and the fact that you can use it as a history book. Other than that, it’s not a massively enjoyable film in this day and age, especially as a “coming of age” movie. 

Maybe some of the more elderly viewers will think differently? Sorry, Kermode.

American Graffiti is available to rent on the Google Play Store for £2.49 in the UK.

TQR Category Ratings:

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