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#191 American Graffiti

(1973, George Lucas)

“Last night in town… you guys gonna have a little bash before you leave?”

There’s something awkward about films based on nostalgia. There are times when they can feel massively overindulgent, with a director making a movie simply to relive his or her youth; the last refuge of a director who has no real imagination or original ideas, leading them to just trawl through their past. To be fair, if they do it well, they can give a great insight into what it was like to live at a certain time and take the audience back to them as if they grew up with them. If they do it badly, well…

Enter George Lucas, who’s built an entire career of the back of paying homage to 1930s adventure serials, so he knows all about a lack of ideas. And so, this is his nostalgia movie, American Graffiti.

American Graffiti tells the stories of four friends on their last day before they venture into adulthood. How they spend their last night varies. Steve (Ron Howard) is planning to head off to university and is trying to convince his girlfriend, Laurie (Cindy Williams), to enter into an open relationship while they’re away from each other, which she doesn’t take well. Curt (Richard Dreyfuss) is having doubts about going to university, and then spends most of the evening trying to track down a mysterious blonde girl he finds sexy. Toad (Charles Martin Smith), the geekiest of the group, gets to look after Steve’s car, and he uses it to clumsily win the affections of a rebellious girl called Debbie (Candy Clark). John (Paul Le Mat) goes cruising around and ends up with an underage teenage girl, Carol (Mackenzie Phillips), in his car who insists that he drive her around and show her a good time.

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