'5-25-77' - Movie Review

May 25, 1977 was the release date of "Star Wars." Our lead character is Pat - "Patrick Read Johnson!" as his mother bellows at him whenever he blows the breakers in the house with his latest attempt to make a movie. And when the credits roll at the end of this movie, the first name that comes up is the director's: Patrick Read Johnson.

John Francis Daley plays Pat, obsessed with special effects and making movies, while stuck in his tiny Illinois town. His mother does everything she can to support him - and even gets him a trip to Hollywood. Which turns out rather well when he finds himself on the set of "Close Encounters" talking to Steven Spielberg, and watching a preview cut of "Star Wars" (both of these things actually happened to Johnson). But when he comes back to his hometown, he has to choose between a mundane life there or actually following his dream (given that I've framed this by mentioning he's a movie director, I've kind of blown the ending - my apologies).

Daley is occasionally a little slack-faced in his portrayal of Johnson, and on other occasions he's quite animated and convincing. Most of the cast are young and only so-so actors. But now let's move on to the good news: the movie shows his life as a series of vignettes seen through the eyes of a film editor (also Daley as Johnson) and filled with ludicrous backyard special effects - often excessive to make emotional points. And yes, this is good news: it's seriously off-kilter, but tells the story remarkably well. A story of young geekiness, obsession, and the drive to become a director in Hollywood.

It's probably a good idea of you're familiar with (at least) "Star Wars," "2001," and Spielberg's "Duel" (1971) as they're referenced (both visually and talked-about) multiple times. I may well have missed some other references.

One interesting note: Johnson apparently filmed this in 2010, but getting the money to do the post-production took a decade and the film wasn't released until 2022.