Wednesday May 18, 2011 12:31
Movie #0047 – Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)
Directed by: Amy Heckerling
Starring: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Sean Penn, Judge Reinhold
Picture credit: Precious Bodily Fluids
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.)