It is hard to find films that truly take you away to a time period long ago. You no longer worry about your life, all that fades away. It’s like you’ve time travel to that period and in that moment that is your life. That is the feeling George Lucas captured in American Graffiti (1973).
This film pays homage to American in the early 1960’s and George Lucas perfectly captures what it was like to be a teen in this time. The audience embarks on an adventure with a couple of high school graduates that get to spend one final night cruising the strip with their buddies before they go off to college. This is the type of story, to a T, that your grandparents and parents share and tell tales of to their family. Even though this film takes place in a different time period, it is the laid backed and chill vibe that stands as the story of every American youth during the summers. This is also our story.
No, we do not usually cruise Main Street anymore just making laps around town in old school classic muscle cars or stop at the local drive in to hang with all our buddies till the sun came up. However, we've all had those kind of nights; the ones where we gather our friends together, go out, have an incredible time full of stories that none of you will ever forget. Time ceases to exist and you don’t go home till the sun is on the horizon. American Graffiti embodies those late summer nights with friends that you wished would never have an ending; the ones where the fears of the adult world had not yet set but the innocence of your childhood was long gone.
George Lucas takes away the worries of daily affairs with American Graffiti. While this stands true for today it especially was true for when it came out. During this time period a lot was happening in America and in its politics. Just to name a few, the Vietnam War going on, President Johnson, and racial violence were only some of the issues. I believe Lucas focused on these specific teen years of picturesque nostalgia to distract the audience and reminisce on the joyous times of being a youth.
Also underneath the happy, sentimental nostalgic vibes there is a thing to be said about youth. It looks at youth not only from the idealistic way of Hollywood, but it also explores the more serious side of losing that youthful splendor. It is easy to lose yourself in the good times and one may not notice the struggle that is occurring for these characters. This is their final night to do all the crazy fun high school trouble they could get into together. With their futures all changing just in the morning, this was it. The film has the characters torn between wanting to stay forever young in this ignorant bliss or venturing out in the real world and become something more adult like. It may not end how you expect and some people make decisions that you didn't expect, but that’s what real life is all about. That’s what makes this film so brilliant.
American Graffiti may be a simple idea masked with pure beautiful nostalgia, however it remains a brilliant classic full of the real struggles of youth created.