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Big Wednesday (1978)

A day will come that is like no other…and nothing that happens after will ever be the same.

Directed by:

John Milius

Rating: 7/10

Running Time: 115 minutes

UK Certificate: PG

On DVD

Country: United States

'Big Wednesday' is the story of three young surfers as they live through some of the most turbulent years in US history. Jan Michael Vincent appears as Matt, with William Katt as Jack and Gary Busey as Leroy. The story begins in 1962 when the three teenagers are enjoying the age of innocence. They are indulging in partying, girls and surfing, and have little in the way of real worries and responsibilities. This is also the age of Bear (Sam Melville) a legendary surfer whom all the others look up to and aspire to emulate. All are anticipating the day when a rare 20-foot swell will finally arrive so they can test themselves against really big waves.

As the years pass, the three change and find themselves dealing with greater problems. The Vietnam War is taking many young men, and the three surfers find themselves facing the draft with mixed feelings. Bear is still prosperous – though finding his lifestyle rather landbound – and it is to him that Matt turns when he has problems with alcohol. The legendary Bear does not let him down. The surfers' lives continue to change and by 1974 the tables have turned – it is Bear who has the alcohol problem and Matt who is handing out the advice. Although their lives change, Matt, Jack and Leroy remain friends. And finally, on an infamous Big Wednesday in 1974, that legendary 20-foot swell finally breaks.

'Big Wednesday' is a gentle rites-of-passage movie that covers many years in the lives of three friends as they grow up but never entirely grow apart. Both touching and humorous, the film authentically recreates the spirit of 60s and 70s America, looking at the big issues of the time through the eyes of three ordinary young men. The script and performances are quite deep enough to satisfy those who have no interest in surfing, and this is not merely a surf movie. That being said, the outstanding surf sequences are fabulously filmed and quite remarkable, and surf fans will find them exciting and authentic. Surprisingly worthwhile all round.

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It's Got: Some very big waves and great surfing sequences.

It Needs: More surf music in the soundtrack.

DVD Extras Clearly the director has chosen to make an effort in order to add value to this pre-DVD-era film. Extras: Directors commentary, Directors interview, Trailer. DVD Extras Rating: 6/10

Alternatives:

Aloha Summer, Blue Crush, In Gods Hands, North Shore

Summary

This rites-of-passage surf movie successfully captures the spirit of the Vietnam War generation.

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