In tiny Anarene, Texas, in the lull between World War Two and the Korean Conflict, Sonny and Duane are best friends. Enduring that awkward period of life between boyhood and manhood, the two pass their time the best way they know how -- with the movie house, basketball, and girls. Jacey is Duane's steady, wanted by every boy in school, and she knows it. Her daddy is rich and her mom is good looking and loose. It's the general consensus that whoever wins Jacey's heart will be set for life.
But Anarene is dying a quiet death as folks head for the big cities to make their livings and raise their kids. The boys are torn between a future somewhere out there beyond the borders of town or making do with their inheritance of a run-down pool hall and a decrepit movie house -- the legacy of their friend and mentor, Sam the Lion. As high school graduation approaches, they learn some difficult lessons about love, loneliness, and jealousy. Then folks stop attending the second-run features at the movie house and the time comes for the last picture show. With the closure of the movie house, the boys feel that a stage of their lives is closing. They stand uneasily on the threshold of the rest of their lives.
This is a subtle, real portrait of confused teenagers, the hidden lives of a group of people, and a town dying, with everyone going to the city. Its influence on more recent movies, such as American Beauty and Ghost World, is quite obvious. It's ahead off its time, because it is brave enough to criticize society and to show us the lives of a group of people, just as they are, without sugar-coating them and not being afraid of making them sometimes unlikeable, just the way people are.
The screenplay is very good. The characters are realistic and well written, and their attitudes and actions are always where they should be. The pace is just right; it's a slow movie, but always entertaining and thought provoking. The dialogs are great, and they always have double meaning, so you really have to be focused on them to get to the core of their meaning. Besides, the end of the picture show, is, too, the end of an era, the death of a town.
The acting is truly amazing, by just everyone. A look, a movement, the accents, the timing and delivery are just brilliant. All the actors were perfectly cast. The direction is simple, focusing on the actors, but still brilliant. The ending, so full of meaning, Cybill Shepherd shots, the large shots, languid and beautiful, the close shots, emotional and touching and the use of light and dark. The black and white makes this nostalgic and beautiful. Overall, really impressive; ahead of its time, tackling important issues and technically impressive. It's a true classic.