At the risk of sounding reductive, “American Graffiti” could easily be referred to as “Dazed and Confused” for the 1960s (although, it should be noted that despite being shot in 1962, the vibe is very much 1950s). The two movies share the same loose structure following a group of teenagers over the course of a single night on the last day of high school, and like all great coming-of-age movies, both feature a variety of era-specific classic songs that root all the inter-connected narratives in the casual everyday of its characters’ lives. Both films also share a star-studded cast filled with recognizable faces, and director George Lucas manages to craft a wide-ranging character study that doesn’t necessitate a heavy amount of expository dialogue thanks to the natural rapport established early on among the relaxed, hyper-talented cast. There are a number of infectious, high-energy sequences, like the extended high school dance scene that also features a downright compelling live performance by Herby & the Heartbeats (as the fictional band Flash Cadillac and the Continental Kids) that’s so well-orchestrated and casually confident it jumps out from the screen. The movie loses focus of its lackadaisical coming-of-age structure near the end, but it’s not enough to mar the experience.
Rating: ★★★★ (out of 5)