It has been 35 years since screenwriter Cameron Crowe and director Amy Heckerling brought us teen coming of age classic Fast Times At Ridgemont High. Neal Damiano remembers a film that remains just as relevant today as it did when first released in 1982.
It has been 35 years since a small teen comedy grabbed the hearts of teenagers all across America. Cameron Crowe wrote and Amy Heckerling directed Fast Times At Ridgemont High, a cult classic from 1982 featuring a ensemble cast including Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Judge Reinhold and Phoebe Cates in a story about teens who get in and out of trouble, relationships, and high school.
What set Fast Times At Ridgemont High apart from the many sexually gratuitous teen films that came out that year is the character development. The movie actually builds a solid story around each character. Relatable and interesting storylines which was a rarity for teen films of the 1980s. Each one is dealing with something that seems like the end of the world.
The movie focuses on six central characters. Brad, a mature senior who grapples with having a job, a girlfriend, and school life; Stacy, a fifteen-year-old naive girl who is over-eager to gain sexual experience; Linda, a high school girl who tries so hard to be sophisticated; Ratner, a movie usher who is brutally shy around girls; Damone, a smooth talking concert ticket scalper; and Spicoli, a stoner who dreams of being a professional surfer.
Many teen centered films jabbed at the punchline almost using the teens as a tool to get the laugh. Fast Times used the story to reach a laugh, unlike a John Hughes film which focused on heavy subject matter to push the story. This film built the storyline around the characters and the authentic, recognizable anxieties didn’t seem heavy because the characters were very entertaining. Heckerling was able to achieve this brilliantly without over exaggeration or needless gratuity. The teenagers were straight to the point even when Spicoli ordered the double cheese with sausage pizza during US History class.
It is a ride through nostalgia and even though I was not a teenager in 1982 I remember the movie always playing on TV as a preteen. The characters are unforgettable, it’s one of those films that makes you smile. So 35 years later it is still relevant. Not bad for a film about the lives of teenagers.