Fast Times At Ridgemont High Reviews
High school high-jinks at the mall.
There are some actors that now are famous like Forest Whitaker, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Sean Penn (Jeff Spicoli).
But difference lies in the fact that "Pretty in Pink," "The Breakfast Club," "Sixteen Candles," and all their counterparts never really had much of a hard time knowing exactly what they were going for. They could be funny, but in a tactful, red-cheeked kind of way, and could be harshly dramatic with a very real sense of sentimentality for the days when being stood up for prom, when a friendship hit a bump, were the most traumatic things in life. To love Hughes's works is not a difficult task - they're made with such sympathy, such luminous likability, that we do more than just love its characters; we relate to them, as if they were childhood friends.
"Fast Times at Ridgemont High," however, is dependent on poorly crafted sex comedy and harsh drama without any sense of redemption, of feel-good quips that invite us to reminisce about our own youthful days. It tries to be a fun romp, but forgets that you can't be light and funny when abortion is a major theme, and when sex is obsessed over but is, when the times comes to make some whoopee, only met with punishment.
If it were a straight drama, I'd have a better time accepting the way it presents its warts and all treatment of high school. But when a movie is intent on being a comedy (it's considered to be one of the best by the American Film Institute), one would expect to feel light as a feather following the ending, gasping for more. And yet, I felt depressed, depressed by the way it exploits Jennifer Jason Leigh and Phoebe Cates, depressed by the way its teenagers are never portrayed as being much more than stereotypical movie teenagers, and you know there are more thoughtful, more intelligent kids at Ridgemont High. At least we get Mark "Rat" Ratner (Brian Backer), a genuinely nice guy who does get the girl but doesn't get nearly enough screen time to warm our deadened hearts.
Because this is a movie very much able to deaden one's optimistic, tenderized heart. In it, we are introduced to Stacy Hamilton (Leigh), a pretty fifteen-year-old determined to lose her virginity, her brother, Brad (Judge Reinhold), a senior jumping from minimum wage job to minimum wage job out of spite, Mike (Robert Romanus), a self-righteous ladies man and ticket scalper, Jeff (Sean Penn), a perpetual stoner with a strong love for surfing, and Linda (Phoebe Cates), Stacy's best friend and provider of X-rated relationship advice.
Cameron Crowe's screenplay (inspired by the experiences he had while posing as a high schooler for a freelance article) drifts back and forth between these characters, studying their relationships between one another like a sociologist on the prowl, and we find ourselves much more taken with the actors who play them than with the characters themselves. All possess a perky glow and have natural charisma, and it's a shame that such characteristics are obscured once they begin the process of embodying their characters. Amy Heckerling, making her directorial debut here, also has 1995's "Clueless" in her filmography, which is actually one of the best teen movies ever, and, fortunately, has been recognized as such much more passionately than "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" has in recent years. I suppose she handles the material as any director might, but didn't it bother her having Leigh and Cates endure objectification on both a physical level and in the way their characters are never seen as anything more than things to be fondled, to be punished?
Admittedly, the film does contain some good. We're touched by the first date that occurs between Rat and Stacy, which bears an unforced, winsome awkwardness that countless teenager have encountered during their young years; we love the clever ways the history teacher, Mr. Hand (Ray Walston), picks on Jeff for his lack of drive. Leigh (fresh faced), Backer (charmingly unconfident), Cates (knowingly sultry), and Reinhold (affably deadpan), all give performances that we perhaps like more because the performers are so radiant. But "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" is a high school movie tormented by the very idea of choosing between piquancy and outright farce, and I'd rather spend my time with something soulful ("Flirting," "Clueless," "Dazed and Confused") than with something confused, piggish, oft sickening.