American Graffiti

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American Graffiti

American Graffiti (1973)

This classic move focuses on a single night in the early Sixties, the hopeful future of the main characters is followed by the events which occur. Steve (Ron Howard), and Curt (Richard Dreyfuss) will be leaving for college the very next day, the build up of years of hard work. Finally they'll be able to leave their small hometown and "spread their wings", experiencing life in ways they never have. Curt is unattached to anyone, but Steve will be leaving behind his longtime girlfriend Laurie (Cindy Williams), who happens to be Curt's sister. Also remaining at home are Terry (Charles Martin Smith), a fumbling nerd, and John (Paul Le Mat), an older kid with "the fastest car in the valley". The two main things that kid's focused on in 1962, it was cars and music. Everyone who's anyone cruises the strip in their shiny automobiles and while they're doing that they're listening to Wolfman Jack on the radio. Music is an integral part of this group, defining its moods, fears, desires and feeding from the same emotions.
Curt, a scholarship winner, is filled with doubt regarding his future. Everything that he's ever done has been aimed at college, yet now the moment is upon him Curt wonders if instead he should take time off. Symbolic of this uncertainty is a blonde in a white T-bird; elusive and enchanting she always slips away from Curt when he nears. In contrast, Steve is (if anything) over confident. He can list a multitude of reasons for departure, yet seems surprised when Laurie reacts badly to his suggestion that they can both see other people while he's away. This emotional turbulence takes a heavy toll on Laurie; she made all of the moves in their relationship and loves Steve dearly but is caught in the trap of what she wants (to stay with Steve) and what she should do (let him go). Steve's so confident of flying away that he gives his car to Terry, the stereo-typical dork, the opportunity to cruise with the best of them.
John's car is a true hot-rod, fast, sleek and good at attracting the attention of the cops. Feeling somewhat lonely he's on the look out for any female company. He didn't expect to get left with a 13-year-old girl, Carol (Mackenzie Phillips). Embarrassing him just by being in the car, where everyone can see them, and chattering at high speed, John holds little back about how he feels. He constantly reminds her of where she stands. He has bigger things to attend to, being aware of an opponent, Falfa (Harrison Ford). Falfa is searching for him, but, John is reluctant to continually defend his position as the best. He's seen the wrecks of those who've failed and doesn't wish to end up that way. Meanwhile, Terry gets lucky with an older girl, Debbie (Candy Clark), Steve and Laurie oscillate between breaking up and staying together and Curt finds himself involved in a little trouble.
With tons of different plots going on at once, the over all attraction of American Graffiti is it's awesome portrayal of the period. Director George Lucas knows this time well and fills the film in music,  behavior and those little details which make the difference. The characters perfectly portray the storm of feelings which effect everyone on the brink of adulthood. The added joy of seeing a host of actors during the time before they became stars increases the interest for us today, since now these very same actors are old and past such youth. All in all, I think this was an awesome movie. I never would have seen it if it wasn't shown in class, and I'm grateful for it.