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FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH (1982)

Fast Times at Ridgemont High - Cover'The Criterion Collection' have recently released a digitally enhanced version of 'Fast Times at Ridgemont High'. It was directed by Amy Heckerling; it starred Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Judge Reinhold, Ray Walston, and Phoebe Cates; and it lasts for 90-minutes. Plus, as an extra added bonus, the Blu-ray edition comes with a documentary about the making of the movie, a television version of the movie, an interview gallery, as well as audio commentary narrated by Amy Heckerling and the screenwriter, Cameron Crowe. Please enjoy.


Fast Times at Ridgemont High (The Criterion Collection)


THE STORY:
Now before we begin today's lesson, I would like everyone in our class to take a little bit of time to think about what we're doing with our lives! Otherwise, some of us may have to deal with some serious, serious problems, either here, or at home or work.

Well, take a look at Stacy, for instance! Stacy Hamilton (Jennifer Jason Leigh), who by all accounts, is a very sweet girl, even though she's trying to find love in all the wrong places, wink-wink! Or how about Spicoli? Jeff Spicoli (Sean Penn), who many of us know as the local pothead that wants to be a famous surfer!

I mean, in all honesty, do any of us truly want to take a leaf out of their book and live a reckless life? No, of course not, as I'm sure you'd rather be like me, your teacher, Mr. Hand (Ray Walston), because I'm a sincere, well-educated person that's very, very, short.

Well, allegedly, but then again, that's most probably why what next transpires goes, bing, bang, bong, when Mike and Mark (Robert Romanus and Brian Backer) suddenly realize they've both been seeing the same girl. As a high school learns how to rock 'n' roll - an unexpected pregnancy doesn't make anyone a ho - a teacher and a pupil put on a great show - and at the end of the day, please remember, life, love, and the pursuit of happiness is very much like playing tic-tac-toe.




THE REVIEW:
Throughout the years, Hollywood has successfully produced a long list of films that catered to the juvenile market. Now some of these films told 'coming of age stories' that depicted teenagers slowly growing into adulthood, such as 'American Graffiti', for instance, while others had a far more rebellious tone, like 'Dazed and Confused', even though they followed a fairly similar path. In this case, however, I'd say 'Fast Times at Ridgemont High' was a salad, a fairly conventional salad, as it contained several 'ingredients' that you'd find in all of these movies.

Fast Times at Ridgemont High - Spicoli
Well, for a start, it was garnished with a handful of lettuce leaves (or subplots), which were loosely connected together via a common theme (i.e., things kids got up to while they were in high school). Then it added some freshly cut tomatoes (girls), cucumbers (boys), and onions (teachers), before everything was tossed around with the hope that they'd harmoniously blend (love) rather than savagely split (conflict). And finally, all of these ingredients were dressed with - yes, you guessed it - a liberal dose of salad dressing, which for the sake of this analogy, consisted of olive oil (music), lemon (locations), and salt (style) in order to bind our meal as one (a high school movie meal).

But did it taste any good? That's what most of us want to know! Or did it taste like a variety of different ingredients hastily thrown together? Well, with some benefit of hindsight, I suppose that all depends on your own particular palate. Because if you're a fan of nostalgia, pathos, and lively high school high jinks, then I'd say, yes, you're going to love this film, as it conveyed situations and characters that I'm sure most of us will find relatable. But if you're a fan of structured storytelling or a movie with a bold and blatant message? No. No, you're not, as 'Fast Times' jumped about, all over the place, from one set of characters to another, until a few stories eventually emerged.


Fast Times at Ridgemont High - Mike and Mark


One of these stories was about a good-hearted stoner called Spicoli, Jeff Spicoli, who came into conflict with a teacher due to their opposing ideologies (cool!). Another story focused on a girl named Stacy, Stacy Hamilton, who slowly learned about her own sexuality by sleeping with a couple of guys and having an unexpected pregnancy (ouch!). And finally, the third story in the film featured two of these guys, Mike and Mark, who likewise learned, or didn't learn, about life via their numerous encounters (burp!). In addition to this, there was also a fourth bonus story about a teenager that's slightly older than the rest, Brad, Stacy's brother, who kept on getting fired from a series of jobs, despite being a fairly hard worker and a pretty nice guy (bless him!). 

Fast Times at Ridgemont High - Stacy And Linda
Anyway, that's enough of that for the time being, because now seems like a pretty good time for us to sit back, relax, and check out the following filmic facts: (1) 'Universal Pictures' first released this $5 million production in America on the 13th of August, 1982, and eventually clawed back $27.1 million at the box office [domestic]. (2) Loosely translated, this project was entitled, 'Student Babydoll' in Argentina, 'Beer, Fart and Rock Music' in Denmark, and 'Cool Pull in the Plug' in Sweden. (3) The screenplay for this movie was adapted from a book originally written by the director of 'Almost Famous', Cameron Crowe, who based it on a number of events that occurred in his old high school. Clairemont High School that's located in San Diego. (4) One of the taglines used to promote this picture, states, 'Fast Cars, Fast Girls, Fast Carrots...Fast Carrots?'. (5) The majority of this movie was shot on location throughout the American state of California, including, Northridge, Santa Monica, North Hollywood, La Crescenta, Inglewood, Van Nuys, Sherman Oaks, Granada Hills, Brentwood, Canoga Park, Valley Glen, Encino, West Manchester, as well as numerous parts of Los Angeles. You also might like to know that the fictitious 'Ridgemont High School' was represented by Canoga Park High School [in Topanga Canyon Boulevard], along with Van Nuys High School [in Cedros Avenue]. (6) This was Nicolas Cage's first paid role in a full-length film and the first time he used his real name, Nicolas Coppola. (7) Some of the actors who auditioned for roles in this movie, included, Ralph Macchio, Matthew Broderick, Meg Tilly, Michelle Pfeiffer, Lori Loughlin, Elisabeth Shue, Kelly Preston, Rosanna Arquette, Carrie Fisher, Ally Sheedy, and D.B. Sweeney.
 

Fast Times at Ridgemont High - Brad and Stacy


In closing my review of 'Fast Times at Ridgemont High', I would now like to rank each key performance in order of preference. So, at the top of my list, I'd like to select the two actors that kind of represented either side of the 'juvenile equation'. Namely, Sean Penn, who depicted Jeff Spicoli as if he were a charming slacker with a good heart (but a bad habit); as well as Judge Reinhold, who played Brad Hamilton as a down-to-earth everyman with an unlucky career. Now, in retrospect, I'd say both of these roles bookended this film in a rather clear and concise fashion, and in my opinion, nicely stood out from the crowd due to their diverse depiction of a teenage male.

Fast Times at Ridgemont High - Mr. Hand
Up next, I'd like to select Jennifer Jason Leigh, Robert Romanus, and Brian Backer. Although, in their case, they represented the heart of this film, a very confused heart, which for all intents and purposes, felt fairly flat because their respective characters were slightly too one-dimensional in tone. After all, Robert played Mike Damone as if he were a fresh-faced version of Kevin Pollak; Brian, on the other hand, portrayed Mark Ratner similar to his depiction of a young Woody Allen; and Jennifer, boldly took on Stacy Hamilton by epitomizing a wholesome, naive, child, that was confused between love and sex.

Oh! And as for the rest of the cast? Well, more or less I'd say they all did a pretty decent job, particularly Phoebe Cates (who was just adorable as Linda), Ray Walston (who was very imposing as Mr. Hand), as well as Forest Whitaker (who was equally imposing as the angry football player, Charles). I would also like to give a shout-out to the music played throughout this dramedy as it grounded the story to a specific time and place. In fact, Phoebe, Ray, Forest, and the music were so notable in this film, that I would have liked to have seen and heard an awful lot more (but in a more focused fashion). Either way, it's still a cool movie and I'm glad that I've watched it. Nuff said.

THE RATING: B- 

FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH (1982) FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH (1982) Reviewed by David Andrews on May 17, 2021 Rating: 5

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