80s American Pie
When "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" came out in 1982 I was a little too young to either enjoy or appreciate the amusing look at the year in the life of a group of high school kids, although the various "Porky" style elements with both Jennifer Jason Leigh and Phoebe Cates appearing topless certainly had their allure. Now nearly 30 years later and I can appreciate "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" and the clever writing of Cameron Crowe which shows a witty look at high school life and can see why it appealed to so many teenagers when it came out. But it is for me again another one of those generational movies which has the most appeal to those who can relate to the characters and the time when it was set and although doesn't alienate other generations makes it just averagely entertaining.
There are two sides to "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" the first of which is the clever and often witty look at high school life. Writer Cameron Crowe has taken those characters and situations which are recognizable from the dope smoking surfer dude to the young girl experiencing sex for the first time and then comically embellished them to make them more entertaining. And in a way it works because pure realism would have been as dull as hell, but watching Sean Penn's Jeff Spicoli order pizza to be delivered in class is the sort of slightly embellished rebelliousness that you can relate to. The cleverness goes on and Crowe manages to cover many important events within a teenager's life from breaking up with your partner, teenage pregnancy and loyalty as well as covering events in the high school year such as the big football game and end of year prom.
The second side of "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" is the teen sex side with much of the movie revolving around the various characters experiences of sex. As such it does have a sense of the "Porky's" about it but it is by no means as juvenile and unfortunately when originally released "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" was grouped in with other teen sex comedies. Whilst there are various sexual references from Jennifer Jason Leigh's Stacy Hamilton first experience of sex with an older man through to Judge Reinhold as her brother Brad getting caught masturbating whilst fantasising it actually fits into the whole life of teenagers and not just blatant soft porn or titillation. Although saying that "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" does feature Phoebe Cates topless in one of the most famous and blatant titillation scenes to come out of any teen movie.
But whilst I can appreciate what "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" is all about it doesn't quite wow me which I put down to it being a generational thing. I am sure that those who were in their late teens back in 1982 can relate to all the events, issues and characters a lot more to those who weren't. But for me I hit my late teens a few years later and those characters and events which feature in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" had changed for me.
As for the actual acting well it has to be said that "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" falls foul to one problem which dogs so many teen movies and that is many of the various actors playing these teenagers were much older and it shows. Judge Reinhold as Brad was in his mid twenties, Jennifer Jason Leigh as Stacy was 20, Sean Penn as Spicoli was over twenty and it goes on with only a couple of the actors actually being of high school age. Despite this there are some entertaining performances especially from Judge Reinhold, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Phoebe Cates although the best comes from Sean Penn who defines that surfer, slacker dude character that was to be imitated many times in other movies.
What this all boils down to is that whilst "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" is both a clever and entertaining look at the year in the life of various high school students it is also a movie which speaks more to a certain generation who can relate to the issues and characters. As such it is entertaining, amusing and well written but it didn't wow me as much as I expected. As for it being lumped together as another "Porky's" style movie, well whilst there is nudity and that famous Phoebe Cates topless scene it's not as juvenile and quite realistic in the way it approaches the sex life of teenagers.