Starring Ron Howard, Richard Dreyfuss, Paul Le Mat, Cindy Williams, Candy Clark, Charles Martin Smith, Suzanne Somers, Harrison Ford, Bo Hopkins, Wolfman Jack, Mackenzie Phillips
Evocative. Memorable. Vital.
There have only been a small number of hangout films over the course of cinema’s history. It’s difficult to abandon plot and trust that characters and setting will be able to carry a movie. I think you’d have to know the characters well and have a strong sense of the time and place in which they live. So it is with American Graffiti anyways, one of the best examples of a hangout film. It follows a group of teenagers, most of them, recent high school graduates on a seminal night of their young lives. Curt Henderson (Dreyfuss), set to head off to college, is having second thoughts. Steve (Howard) and Laurie (Williams), long-time sweethearts, negotiate a temporary break in their relationship-more Steve’s idea than Laurie’s. Terry (Smith) meets the girl of his dreams but one episode after another threatens their time together. And John Milner (Le Mat) has been the man as far as street racing goes for a long time, but there’s a new guy in town and he’s looking for John. As someone born well after the film’s setting, I am only qualified to say that American Graffiti feels authentic. The characters are relatable and likable, though far from perfect, and the soundtrack is classic.
-Walter Tyrone Howard-