George Lucas Pauline Kael - Essay

Pauline Kael

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Using women (and not only women) as plot functions may be a clue to the shallowness of many movies, even of much better movies—American Graffiti, for example. The audience at American Graffiti appears to be ecstatically happy condescending toward its own past—how cute we were at seventeen, how funny, how lost—but for women the end of the picture is a cold slap. Set in 1962, American Graffiti compresses into one night the events from high school graduation to the opening of college in the fall. At the close, it jumps to the present and wraps up the fates of the four principal male characters—as if lives were set ten years after high school!—and it ignores the women characters. This is one of those bizarre omissions that tell you what really goes on in men filmmakers' heads and what women—who are now, for the first time in movie history, half the moviegoing audience—bitterly (or unconsciously) swallow. (p. 193)

Because of the energy of the performers, Laurie and Carol stay in the memory more vividly than the boys, but that chilling omission at the end is indicative of the limited male imagination of the picture. I don't think the director, George Lucas, who also worked on the script, ever wondered whether Laurie, who wants her boy-man Steve so fiercely and wants nothing else, could sustain the giving over of herself or whether her intensity would sour into neurosis. Was Steve really enough for her, and could he...

(The entire section is 603 words.)