Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)

Dir. Amy Heckerling
Starring: Judge Reinhold, Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Phoebe Cates, etc.

I know Mitchell has seen this, but if he didn’t I definitely recommend it to him. I would recommend this to Tony, Larri, Chris, Penny, Grace and maybe Kevin. Joel, Don, Marc and Jill might think there are some interesting things about the film, but they wouldn’t really love it. This film surprised and impressed me. While I don’t think I enjoyed it, I do think it possesses enough noteworthy qualities that make it a good film and also one that deserves a spot in the 1001 book.

The film is based on a book by Cameron Crowe, who posed as a high school student to write a book about life at a high school, and the film feels like an enthnographic case study of American high school students. This was a popular film when I was in high school, and I had the impression that the film was raunchy and crass, a typical 80s teen sexploitation film. While it does have some crude elements, if you have the same impression of the film, don’t let that stop you from seeing this. Calling this a serious ethnographic film is not far off. There is an honesty that is unsettling and sometimes sad–which makes the feel relevant today.

Like Splendor in the Grass, Fast Times demonstrates a willingness to honestly explore the life and issues adolescents face. However, where repression is the MO for dealing with teen sex, Fast Times depicts a society permits the opposite approach. The sad thing is that the results are not that much better.

Of course, I recognize that the film is not just about teen sexuality. There is archetypical (the prototype?) surfer “dude” character, created by Sean Penn’s classic performance. There are also some memorable dialogue and slang (Did “wuss” originate from this film?).

I would highly recommend the director’s and writer’s commentary on Fast Times too. Heckerling and Crowe (I think it was) do a great job of breaking down the film and increasing the viewer’s appreciation of it. Don’t forget to note Forrest Whitaker’s first performance (I think).

I listened to some of the commentary, but stopped because it was late. I did watch the “making of” segment, which mentioned that this was the first film for a lot of actors (Eric Stoltz, Anthony Edwards, Nicholas Cage, Jennifer Jason Leigh, etc.) Or if wasn’t their first film, it might have been the one that really go their careers started.

  1. No Comments

You can add images to your comment by clicking here.