Wednesday May 18, 2011 12:31

Movie #0047 – Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)

Posted by Michael

Directed by: Amy Heckerling
Starring: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Sean Penn, Judge Reinhold
Picture credit: Precious Bodily Fluids
First Viewing

Synopsis: A year in the life of a group of kids at a California high school.

So… what happened to Judge Reinhold? He may not be the most versatile actor ever, but he’s got a fairly unique screen presence, he’s likable, and he tends to give pretty solid performances. And yet his career petered out and all but died after the ’80s, though he has been working consistently since then (mostly in straight-to-video and TV stuff). It’s too bad.

It goes without saying, then, that I liked Reinhold in this movie. I liked Jennifer Jason Leigh, and I liked Sean Penn (who has a fairly small part, but steals every scene he’s in). I liked pretty much all of the actors in this movie, which is good because this is a movie that really requires that you like its characters. It’s pretty light on plot, and is content to just let us spend a year or so with these high school kids and see what they’re up to. It works, mostly because of the strength of Cameron Crowe’s script (his first) and the memorable characters, who do not feel artificial like movie teenagers tend to be, but like real people.

The movie actually reminds me a lot of American Graffiti — both films plotlessly follow a group of high schoolers over a certain amount of time (one night for Graffiti, one year for Ridgemont High), and both films feature feature a pervasive use of rock music on the soundtrack. And yet Ridgemont High works so much better; the characters are more fully realized, and ultimately much more compelling. I enjoyed spending time with this group of people, whereas spending time with the kids from Grafitti had the tendency to get tedious.

(Addendum — This is a complete aside and only vaguely related to the film at hand, but I was looking at the picture above and it reminded me of a pet peeve of mine in movies: I find it pretty distracting when the characters in a movie are eating what is purportedly a fresh pizza, and it’s clear by looking at it that it has been sitting out for hours. A pizza that isn’t fresh has a fairly unmistakable look to it. I understand the logistical difficulties in trying to bake a fresh pizza for every take, but… well, it bugs me. That is all.)

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3 Responses to Movie #0047 – Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)



May 18th, 2011 at 10:49 pm

More than once I’ve heard movies euphemistically referred to as “character driven” as code for “no plot”. And you’re right: Fast Times is just that, but it still works. I was 15 when it came out, so it was a film that helped define my generation.

So what do you think about the films Slacker and Dazed And Confused? They’re both generational films about teens/young adults that don’t have much in the way of plot. Or do I have to patiently wait for a review of those films too? I’ve a very busy man, you know. ;)



May 18th, 2011 at 11:01 pm

I actually haven’t seen either of those films! Dazed and Confused is sitting on my PVR at the moment, so I shall be watching it soon. But it’s not on the list, surprisingly enough, so I won’t be writing about it here.

Slacker is on the list, so I’ll watch it at some point in the near future if I can get my hands on a copy.



May 19th, 2011 at 1:56 pm

My most lasting memory from Fast Times. Along with every other teenaged boy in 1982. In the entire universe.

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