#303 Fast Times At Ridgemont High

(1982, Amy Heckerling)

“I woke up in a great mood, I don’t know what the hell happened”

It’s the eighties! Time to do a lot of coke and vote for Ronald Reagan! Yeah! Yes, today we are looking at one of the classic teen comedies of the 80s, Fast Times At Ridgemont High, a movie about sex, growing up and dancing to The Go-Go’s. But is it any good?

Fast Times At Ridgemont High focuses on a group of various teenagers who attend Ridgemont High. At the centre are sophomores Stacy Hamilton (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and Mark Ratner (Brian Backer), who receive advice from their older friends Linda (Phoebe Cates) and Mike (Robert Romanus), who believe themselves to be wiser in romance. There are also subplots involving Stacy’s brother Brad (Judge Reinhold) who works his way through a variety of terrible jobs, and unrelated stoner kid Jeff Spicoli (Sean Penn) who has a run-in with strict teacher Mr Hand (Ray Walston).

This movie is the most eighties thing I’ve ever seen. The very beginning of the movie is basically a montage of everything that represents the decade, right down to “We Got The Beat” by The Go-Go’s. Unfortunately, this instantly dates the film, and it never really recovers from this.

Fast Times At Ridgemont High is pretty much a typical teen comedy. We have a naïve protagonist (Stacy) who doesn’t really understand this whole “sex” thing, but wants to try it out. As such, she ends up sleeping with a 26-year-old (!) and a fellow classmate, and then has to deal with the consequences of doing this so irresponsibly. I get that she was meant to be portrayed as naïve and inexperienced, but sometimes her whole character just just screamed of desperation and she wasn’t hugely likeable as a result.

Brad isn’t much better. While I certainly identified with his plight of working in underpaid customer service jobs, his bizarre decision to masturbate over his sister’s friend seemed a little too creepy for comfort. Also, the scene where he works in a convenience store made me wish I was watching Clerks instead, which isn’t really a good sign.

Spicoli’s kind of amusing, but the joke is stretched a tad too thin. However, he does have a surprising amount of character development, and there’s some nice foreshadowing and callbacks in his storyline to make it interesting enough.

I guess my problem with Fast Times At Ridgemont High was that I didn’t find it very funny. I found it hard to connect with the protagonists and most the situations they found themselves in were too ridiculous even for a comedy. Scenes such as Stacy getting an abortion as casually as she would buy lunch came across as a little weird, and the field trip to the local hospital was, quite frankly, bizarre.

The movie had its moments. There was a joke about using Led Zeppelin as makeout music followed by a scene demonstrating how useless that advice actually is that got a laugh out of me, and I was amused by the supposed Casanova’s complete lack of sexual prowess when put to the test. However, these moments were few and far between, and I spent more time feeling rather indifferent to everything.

I guess I’ve been spoiled by that star of 80s teen comedies, The Breakfast Club. That’s a movie that’s stood the test of time, and feels realistic for everyone who’s ever been a teen, in the 80s or otherwise. It’s a movie that’s clever, deconstructs high school stereotypes and presents us with real, likeable characters. By contrast, Fast Times At Ridgemont High is painfully formulaic, and its characters are all horny caricatures of teenagers instead of real people.

Perhaps it’s an issue that this movie hasn’t aged well, but Fast Times At Ridgemont High was merely okay, and certainly didn’t feel like anything special. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to watch a double bill of The Breakfast Club and Clerks to get what this movie promised but failed to deliver.

Starring Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Judge Reinhold, Phoebe Cates, Brian Backer, Robert Romanus & Ray Walston
Written by Cameron Crowe
Produced by Art Linson & Irving Azoff
Music by Sammy Hagar, The Go-Go’s, Jackson Browne, Led Zeppelin & Jimmy Buffett
Cinematography by Matthew F. Leonetti
Edited by Eric Jenkins

Favourite Scene: Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir really doesn’t make for good makeout music.
Scene That Bugged Me: The masturbation scene was just uncomfortable.

Watch it if: You were a teen in the 80s, I guess
Avoid it if: You were a teen in any other decade

Posted on August 28, 2014, in 1980s, Comedy and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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