Random scrawls on the wall (with a can of spray paint) about an American classic:
- Ron Howard made the best decision ever by an actor when he moved from in front of the camera to the back. Howard was, frankly, a dreadful actor. Young Ronnie Howard got by on TV’s The Andy Griffith Show because he was such a cute little kid. Older Ron got by, again, on Happy Days because Richie Cunningham was a stiff, awkward young character played by a stiff, awkward young actor. American Graffiti, in many ways a delightful showcase for actors, grinds to a screeching halt every time Howard’s character, Steve, is the focus. Worst scene: Near the end of the film, Steve glances at his wristwatch and says to Curt (Richard Dreyfuss), “Where are you going? It’s awfully early in the morning.” If that reads bad, wait until you hear Howard say it.
- Other than Howard, the actors shine in this film. This is odd, because this is a George Lucas film, and the soft-spoken filmmaker is not considered an “actor’s director.” Said Harrison Ford, who got his big break in Graffiti: “George is not overly fond of the actual shooting part of filmmaking.” Lucas was more at home in the editing room or creating special effects. But in 1973 he paid attention to the characters in his movie and the result was magical. I think American Graffiti is his best film, and yes, that includes the overblown Star Wars flicks.
- I have mixed feelings about the use of nonstop period music in the film. Lucas’s decision to do this was so successful that it influenced scores of movies to come — especially those set in the ’50s or ’60s. Thanks to this rock-and-roll overkill, there was a time when I never again wanted to hear Buddy Holly. Or The Platters. Or The Flamingos, et al.
- This excerpt is from a 2001 review of American Graffiti on a Web site called thedigitalfix: “Maybe it’s because we’re British, or maybe it’s because the film has lost most of its charm over the years, but either way, American Graffiti isn’t as good as the praise that has been heaped on it.”
Well, maybe it’s because I’m American, and maybe it’s because I was once an anxiety-riddled, naïve teenager cruising the streets of a small American town, but the film has lost none of its charm for me. Lucas has called his first hit movie “uniquely American,” and I suppose that’s true — but only to an extent. It’s a universal story because all of us were teenagers, but it’s American because it does such a wonderful job depicting a specific place and a specific time. Grade: A
Director: George Lucas Cast: Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, Paul Le Mat, Charles Martin Smith, Cindy Williams, Candy Clark, Mackenzie Phillips, Wolfman Jack, Bo Hopkins, Harrison Ford Release: 1973
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