Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)

"Fast Times at Rdgemont High" marks the beginning of Amy Heckerling's career in fame, which promptly ended with "Clueless". Although her career was short-lived in the limelight it provided us with some of the most unique and hilarious views on American teenagers that we have yet to see duplicated. If John Hughes' style means anything, Heckerling's should be considered just as recognizable and twice as quirky.
Based on the book by Cameron Crowe, "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" seeks to encompass all of one highschool. We have the pretty girls, the jocks, the sleeky bookie-wannabes, the nerds, and the stoners. While it never tries to sympathize with them as much as "The Breakfast Club" does, it also doesn't portray them as victims in an adult-run world. Heckerling instead slyly hints that the generational gap between adolescent and adult may not be that great, rebellion is just something that we all have to do.
The main girl of our story is Stacy Hamilton (Jennifer Jason Leigh) who works as a waitress at a pizza place at Ridgemont mall. She and her best friend Linda (Phoebe Cates) have many, many chats about boys; and it's a goal for Stacy to lose her virginity.
Sex is careless in "Fast Time at Ridgemont High" least at first. As the teens start realizing that their actions have consequences, we see maturing begin. It's very subtle and very enjoyable...much like "Juno" which would follow on many years later.
Stacy's brother Brad (Judge Reinhold) works at a fast food place and has been steadily dating his girlfriend for a few years. He's a senior and thinks that it may be time to break up, just so he can fool around a little in his last year.
Then there's Jeff Spicoli (Sean Penn), the school's resident stoner. He wants to be a surfer and have as many babes as he wants, unfortunately, most of his time spent in school is used up butting heads with the history professor, Mr. Hand (Ray Walston).
Mike Damone (Robert Romanus) is they guy to go to if you want tickets for something. He thinks that he's a cool cat, able to woo any girl he wants, and mostly he's right. The bad boy routine is something that the girls at Ridgemont seem to enjoy.
Mark Ratner (Brian Baker) is a lonely nerd who gets all his answers stolen from him during tests. On the first day of school he sees Stacy and immediately falls in love with her, trying to think of someway he could introduce himself.
Mike decides to help Mark out with love as Linda tries to coach Stacy into losing her virginity. The result of which is a complicated mess that Jeff sometimes finds himself in the middle of, for no apparent reason.
For a debut piece, "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" is really nervy. It shows teenage sex, smoking pot, rock 'n' roll, and all the things that your parents wouldn't want you to know existed when you were these kids' age. Highschool is a really messed up time in life, and this film isn't saying anything to the contrary. Your future is riding on what you accomplish and decide your future might be, your relationships start to become serious, etc.
The severity of the situation could and sometimes does weigh the movie down; but for the most part, the teens seem oblivious to everything around them.
My one problem with the movie is that it doesn't have any cohesion. It doesn't mesh together, there's nothing about the stories that makes them truly interconnect with one another and so for that "Fast Times" occasionally rolls out like a series of vignettes. The ending is disappointingly dull, but maybe it didn't have a right to be flashy and gaudy.
Whatever the case, Heckerling is very sympathetic towards her subjects but never over indulges in their trials. For being so wacky, "Fast Times" is actually a very natural work, something close to realism.
But it's a movie that's better know for its individual aspects than the sum of all its parts.
Very influential in terms of what movies were made after it, but nothing extraordinary.

Score: ★★½

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