Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) – Amy Heckerling

Amy Heckerling directs from a Cameron Crowe screenplay, which he adapted from his own book, so you knew going on that with Heckerling and Crowe on board the film was in good hands. And then the cast was filled with up and comers, and an iconic scene which any teen boy who grew up in the 80s has remembered forever.

Set at Ridgemont High, as well as the neighbourhood mall, we follow a group of teens through one school year, and how events effect them and shape what is to come. Filled with laughs, as well as some solid drama, the film reminded older movie-goers what it was like to be a teenager, and the teens who saw it, much like in a John Hughes (with a comparable amount of needle drops, I’m sure), saw themselves on screen.

Filled with iconic scenes, moments and dialogue the cast plays like a who’s who including Ray Walston, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Sean Penn, Judge Reinhold, Robert Romanus, Phoebe Cates, Brian Backer, Vincent Schiavelli, Amanda Wyss, Forest Whitaker, Eric Stoltz, and a very young Nicholas Cage (who doesn’t have much in the way of dialogue).

The heart of the story is Jennifer Jason Leigh’s Stacy, a fifteen year old who makes a couple of mistakes in the love department in her quest for a boyfriend, while her brother, Brad (Reinhold) prepares for what he thinks is going to be a banner senior year, it is, but not the kind he thinks.

Jeff Spicoli is a stoner with a surfer vibe who is just trying to coast by until he clashes with Walston’s Mr. Hand, and cinema history was made. While Phoebe Cates got everyone’s heart pounding culminating in that one scene…

There are trials of friendships, great music, hanging at the mall, broken hearts, and the desire to have a good time. Heckerling proves that she’s got a handle on the teen world, something she would revisit again with Clueless, and Cameron Crowe has a knack for authentic dialogue.

Everything works in this film, but if the heart of it, Stacy, didn’t work, neither would the film, but Leigh is fantastic, bringing a real sense of teen angst to her role, and just the desire to be loved while she (and everyone around her) wrestles with their self-confidence, their goals, and their dreams.

I haven’t watched this one for sometime, but it’s always something I look forward to, and each time, I get something new out of it. This time around, Stacy’s arc really got to me, even as I laughed my way through the rest of the film. And then, of course, the tags at the end of the film, with what happened to some characters, they seemed kind of comedic when I was younger, now, reading them at my current age, it hurts seeing where some of the characters go from there.

Classic 80s fare that still endures.

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