An aspiring filmmaker becomes excited about the upcoming release of Star Wars in 5-25-77. Since seeing 2001: A Space Odyssey when he was 9 years old, Pat (John Francis Daley) has been interested in making movies, with him frequently working on Super-8 sequels to his favourite films, much to the annoyance of friends Bill (Steve Coulter) and Robin (Katie Jeep). After a spur of the moment phone call from his mother Janet (Colleen Camp) to American Cinematographer editor Herb Lightman (Austin Pendleton), Pat gets the chance to meet his heroes in Hollywood, which includes getting a peak at an upcoming film known as Star Wars.
5-25-77 is a semi-autobiographical teen fantasy from writer/director Patrick Reed Johnson (Spaced Invaders), loosely based on Johnson’s own experiences as a teenager in 1977. Pat is often ostracized for being the only sci-fi geek in his small town, with him becoming desperate for acceptance. Things seem to look up for Pat as he enters a relationship with shy girl Linda (Emmi Chen), however his Hollywood dreams and excitement towards the release of Star Wars might end up overshadowing this budding first love.
In some ways it can be said that 5-25-77 is a bit of a passion project for filmmaker Patrick Reed Johnson, who originally shot most of the film from 2004-2006, finally finishing the film thirteen years later. In some ways, the long development of 5-25-77 is not unlike the actions of Johnson’s onscreen surrogate, played by Freaks and Geeks’ John Francis Daley, who has been working on his own sequels to films such as Jaws, Planet of the Apes, and Duel, but hasn’t actually finished any of them.
5-25-77 is a coming of age story filled with various fantastical elements, as Pat imagines himself inside his favourite movies. The film is very much a celebration of geek culture, even though I wasn’t a fan of the film perpetuating the stereotype that geeks are outcasts to society. Granted, the film takes place in the 1970s, however I still wasn’t the biggest fan of scenes that has Pat beat up by jocks, get shamed for being a virgin, and have his friends roll their eyes at Pat’s love of movies. You can tell that those aspects of the film probably hit close to home for me.
I can say that 5-25-77 is an OK film, though it is ultimately nothing special. In many ways, the film is an attempt by Patrick Reed Johnson to mythologize his own life, since he was indeed one of the first people outside of ILM to get to see a work print of Star Wars. However, it turns out that the Star Wars aspect of the film doesn’t really come into play until well into the second half, with most of the film being about Pat balancing his Hollywood dreams with the more realist thoughts of those around him. In most of the film has Pat idolizing Douglas Trumbull for his work in 2001: A Space Odyssey and he comes across Star Wars almost by accident.
While worth checking out for its homages to sci-fi films of the 1970s, 5-25-77 is ultimately little more than a passion project for the director, who was once excited about the release of Star Wars in the summer of 1977.