Never mind the title, a deceptive and tacky attempt at linking this picture with a certain nostalgic hit directed by George Lucas. Originally titled Country Dreamin’, then given a more commercial moniker before reaching theaters, this low-budget melodrama concerns the wanderlust that a young man raised on a farm experiences after graduating from high school. Over the course of a lazy summer, Josh (Michael Driscoll) has fun with his buddies at the local swimming hole, dodges his girlfriend’s requests for commitment, faces temptation upon becoming friendly with a lonely housewife, and wrestles with questions about his future. Additional story material stems from conflicts between Josh and two foster brothers, because even though they’re the rightful heirs to the farm where they all live, Dad is partial to Josh. It’s not quite fair to say that Teenage Graffiti is a situation in search of a story, seeing as how Josh goes all the way from graduating to making a final decision about his next move, but the storytelling is leisurely at best. It’s also worth nothing that Teenage Graffiti is not in any substantial way a comedy, despite being classified that way in many authoritative sources.
The vibe of the picture is set by an early scene, during which a friend of Josh’s drives onto the farm in a bitchin’ convertible covered in paintings of clouds and rainbows. As the friend wheels the car around the property, Josh playfully chases after the vehicle, asking where it came from and requesting a ride. Turns out it’s a graduation gift for Josh from his folks. The way that cowriter/director Christopher G. Casler takes his time getting to the point of the scene speaks volumes. Nonetheless, the movie conveys some sense of what it’s like to be at the stage of life when time seems like an endless resource. Characters get into mischief, experiment with sex, and succumb to long-simmering impulses. Eventually, circumstances force a reckoning that defines the transition from adolescence to adulthood.
None of this should suggest that Teenage Graffiti is a substantial picture, because it most surely is not. Rather, the movie expresses a common human experience in an unvarnished way. Peripherally, it also captures a cultural moment with the supporting character of a beardy young philosopher who spends his days meditating nude in a remote cabin. Given that Teenage Graffiti was released in 1977, a decade after the Summer of Love, the presence of this character says something about how the hippy ethos took a while to reach rural communities.
Teenage Graffiti: FUNKY