“Maybe I’ve grown up. Maybe I changed my mind.”
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
Response to Peary’s Review:
He points out that “fittingly, we don’t see our young heroes and heroines having dinner at home with their parents, doing their homework, or attending classes.” Instead, the film is structured around one strategically compressed night in which “at the beginning and conclusion, we see our four male heroes together”:
… and “in between, they go their separate ways.” Peary notes how “smoothly” Lucas moves “between the four storylines, which at times intermingle”: Howard and Williams’ romantic challenges; Dreyfuss’s adventures with “three toughs” (led by Bo Hopkins):
… “Smith having “the wildest night imaginable” with “batty blonde Candy Clark”:
… “and Le Mat unexpectedly finding a “great companion” in Phillips.
He writes that “the pace is swift, the dialogue is consistently witty and clever, and the characters are terrific,” and he adds that the “film features the first great golden-oldies soundtrack” (costing only $80,000!).
In Alternate Oscars, Peary names this the Best Film of the Year, and points out that “because of this seminal youth film the next two decades would be overrun with pictures about overly worried or overly excited teenagers… but none would be such labors of love.” As he writes, “None would have the sense of fun, humor, warmth toward characters, or genuine nostalgia that is evident in Lucas’s every shot and line of dialogue,” and he points out that this film “was an instant classic” (though not beloved by all critics), “a smash hit, [and] a vehicle that helped launch numerous careers (even Harrison Ford has a small part).”
I’m in agreement with Peary’s laudatory review, and was very pleasantly surprised to find this nostalgia-laced classic so authentically engaging. There doesn’t seem to be a wrong step taken here, from careful selection of each supporting character in the large ensemble cast to Lucas’s penchant for cultivating improvised “mistakes”. Watching Laurent Bouzereau’s must-see documentary (1998) about the film’s 28-day rapid-fire production shows that input from producer Francis Ford Coppola and cinematographer Haskell Wexler also seemed to play a crucial role in the film’s creative success. This film remains well worth a revisit.
Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:
(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)