American Graffiti (1973)

I watched this months ago, on a whim, and for some reason never wrote about it. I think I was distracted from watching it so many times in a row. It’s its own fault, really – it had to go and blow my mind away with delight.

Between the soundtrack (I have a soft spot for 50s and 60s pop and Motown), the actors, chemistry, and the simplicity of the script, it’s really pretty special. It’s accessible and relatable to just about every generation.

The odd momentary lapse in period continuity aside, the film is nearly flawless. It’s light, breezy, and just a big ball of fun.

You don’t see too many movies like this anymore – movies that are less about coming of age so much as they’re about a moment in time, a feeling that changes you. Everyone yearns for moments like that, in a way kind of aches for for it. The last attempt at this format I can think of would have to be Dazed and Confused, which just didn’t tickle me quite the same way. There was something missing – it felt cold, like it was missing a texture and depth. Though still light and easy, Graffitihas texture and warmth in spades.

It’s amazing watching Richard Dreyfus, here 26 playing an 18 year old. The hopeless romantic, a “tortured soul”, he represents all that teen angst – the uncertainty of your impending headlong dive into adulthood.

Ron Howard, at 19, is a surprisingly candid asshole. You want to like him from the get go, but the more you watch him and Laurie (Cindy Williams) squabble, the uglier he becomes. Petty, narcissistic, and borderline delusional, he’s the hardest character to warm up to.

But Charles Martin Smith, little Terry the Tiger, is such a treat. His comedic timing is spot on, and he brings a lightness and likeability to his spastic, dweeby role. From the moment he accidentally crashes his moped into the soda machine at the films’ opening (an actual accident that Lucas later decided had to be in the film), you love him to pieces.

Ultimately this movie’s little more than a nostalgic trip down memory lane, or, for the younger generations, a look at their own life through that of another era. It’s not particularly heavy, nor is it very complex. That’s what’s so beautiful and appealing about it – its ease and simplicity. It’s easy to love, and hard to stop watching. It’s a delight, through and through.

This post was originally published on my tumblr on September 3, 2012.