“As soon as I get out, I’m off like a big black bird — to Hollywood!”
An aspiring teenage writer (Glyn Turman) in 1960s Chicago spends his time hanging out with friends (including Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs), ditching school, and hitting on a pretty new girl (Cynthia Davis).
Based on an autobiographical screenplay by Eric Monte (co-creator of the television series “Good Times”), Cooley High is often referred to as “the black American Graffiti,” given its similarly episodic treatment of life and love among high school seniors. The primary difference, of course, is that the central characters in Cooley High live in the projects of Chicago — a vastly different world than that of the privileged white teens in Graffiti. Monte’s ear for authentic dialogue brings this world richly alive, and the boys’ banter is one of its strengths, as is much of the rich location footage around the city. Unfortunately, however, the screenplay itself is too fragmented to hold much interest; strangely enough, we never feel much investment in the characters themselves. Cooley High should be seen once by all film fanatics for its historical relevance, but likely won’t be repeat viewing for most.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- An authentic look at African-American teenagehood in 1960s Chicago
Yes, simply for its historical popularity.