American Graffiti: Can You OD on Nostalgia?

Moving on to our next movie, American Graffiti.  This 1973 coming of age film stars Ron Howard and Richard Dreyfuss, and comes in at #460 on the almighty list.

So there's a group of friends that are spending the last night before they go away to college.  Hijinks ensue.  Steve spends the night trying to convince his girlfriend Laurie that it's OK for them to have an open relationship while he's at college, Kurt gets kidnapped by a gang of small town hoodlums, and Milner babysits a feisty preteen while being chased by a young Harrison Ford, who wants to race him as much as those Japanese guys from Better Off Dead wanted to race John Cusack.

Which is a lot.

And that's, well...pretty much it.  It's not about the plot, OK, it's about the characters and the nostalgia.  Oh, the nostalgia.

Random Musings:

  • Funny story: when I was a kid, the combination of this movie and Happy Days made me genuinely believe that Ron Howard was a teenager in the 50s.  I kept seeing footage of him in the 90s and thinking God he looks so good for his age...then I realized he's my dad's age and only in his 50s and everything made a lot more sense.

  • Sorry guys, Richard Dreyfuss does not look 17.  I tend to doubt that Richard Dreyfuss looked 17 when he was 17.

  • Love the soundtrack.  That is all.

  • No, Ron Howard.  No.  Seeing other people while you're away at college will not strengthen your relationship.  That's a supernaturally bad idea.  Either break up or stay together, don't do any of this middle ground shit.  You can't have your cake and sleep with other girls too.

  • So apparently what I'm getting from this movie is that before teenagers had cell phones, they all just drove around next to each other and carried out entire conversations between the cars.

  • "Go kiss a duck, marblehead." Real tough, Opie.  Real tough.

Colin Mochrie is not impressed.
  • "I just wanted to tell you that Bobby here is madly in love with you and trembles at the sight of your rippling biceps." LULZ No one has a way with words like Richard Dreyfuss has a way with words.

  • Richie Cunningham is...kind of an asshole.  He tells his girlfriend that he wants an open relationship, then is all shocked and offended when she isn't happy with him.  And doesn't particularly want to dance and have sex with him.

  • So...this gang gets their kicks by kidnapping random squares and driving around town, jacking pinball machines?  That's actually pretty quaint.

  • I actually love the dynamic between Carol and Milner - they're really cute.  Especially when he tells her that he wants to ravish her, just so that she'll get scared and tell him her address.

  • Why is everyone so shocked that Steve and Laurie break up?  Is it really that implausible that a high school couple would end things rather than attempt a long distance relationship that, let's face it, is likely doomed to failure?

  • Laurie leaves Ron Howard for Harrison Ford?  No offense, but...upgrade.

  • Did Richard Dreyfuss really just join a gang?  I do believe I've seen everything.

  • Are these guys seriously debating whether or not they're going to actually leave for college tomorrow?  Can you do that?  Shouldn't they have made these decisions months ago, like before they put down a deposit and oh God I'm such an adult.

  • I actually like the blond girl who's with Todd.  She's kind of stupid and she totally uses guys, but I don't know, she's fun and quirky.  "Girls don't pay, guys pay!"  Betty Friedan just rolled over in her grave.

  • How about that downer of an epilogue?  Milner and Toad die, Steve ends up with a soul crushing job, and Kurt has to flee to Canada (presumably he's a draft dodger).  The way I see it, the epilogue serves to slap you in the face with reality, and to basically say, "Enjoy it while it lasts, because this is about as good as it gets."

Let me preface this by saying that I did enjoy this film.  Especially the bits with Carol and Milner, they were my favorite.  They had adorable chemistry and I was emotionally invested in them.  Very cute!  I think it's hard for me to fairly judge the movie, because it's fueled by the power of pure nostalgia, but it's nostalgia for a time period that I have no real connection to.  American Graffiti was made for people who actually experienced this as teenagers.  Although a certain amount of it is themes that are universal (wanting to escape from your hometown but being worried about it at the same time, going off to college, saying goodbye to friends you've known forever, etc) a lot of the film involves memories that I just can't access.  So while, I appreciate the film and the spirit in which it was made, I find it difficult to really judge this film.  It wasn't really made for me.  That's OK, though, it's still a good movie!

Thanks for reading, and come back next time for Sullivan's Travels!

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