Thursday, April 16, 2015

Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)

Director: Amy Heckerling [her debut- also did "Clueless"]
Writer: Cameron Crowe [also wrote/directed another 80's classic, "Say Anything..."]
Type: R-rated teen high school movie


Brad Hamilton- Judge Reinhold
Spicoli- Sean Penn
Linda Barrett- Phoebes Cates
Stacy Hamilton- Jennifer Jason Leigh
Rat- Brian Backer
Mike Damone- Robert Romanus
Mr. Hand- Ray Walston (RIP- 2001)

Honorable mentions:
Nicolas Cage as a random dude in the bleachers at the football game
Forest Whittaker as Ridgemont High football star, Charles Jefferson

[With Nicolas Cage, it was his first silver screen appearance. He was then known as Nicolas Coppola, lied about his age when he auditioned for Brad, but didn't get it. Supposedly, his audition was too dark and he was only 17, so he couldn't work as many hours.]
**All credits go to IMDB


Opening Monologue- Skepticism

The first time I heard about this movie was from my 11th grade Social Studies teacher, Mr. Jablon. I think he said it was either one of his favorite movies or it was "the best movie." Mind you, this was ten years ago and I spent a great part of that year stressing out about grades and SAT scores.
I saw the movie a year or so later, but came away with little memory of it. I guess I expected the John Hughes 80's experience and wound up disappointed. I also saw the censored version, so die-hard fans like my dad would say I didn't really experience the movie.

Ten years later, we watched the movie on DVD [therefore completely uncensored] at the shore house.
I'm still of the opinion that it's not the best 80's high school I'd ever seen. On the John Hughes scale, grading it against his movies, I'd say it's better than "Weird Science" but not better than "Sixteen Candles." ["Pretty in Pink" is the next notch higher, followed by "Ferris Bueller" and "The Breakfast Club"]

In my view, the 80's was defined by a lot of high school movies. A genre that was more or less perfected in this decade and would later become predictable in later years [unless they're the rarities like "Clueless" and "Easy A" that either defined a generation or told an original/not-so-clichéd story].
In 1982, the genre was just coming into focus, but not completely hashed out.

One key example: this movie really doesn't have a plot. It had a couple of story arcs happening simultaneously, but there was never a central focus.
That may be why it was so hard for me to get hooked on this movie.

Another criticism that I can't help but echo: all the actors look too old to play high school kids. It's sometimes hard to find it believable as a high school movie.
At least Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall were teenagers when they did "Sixteen Candles."

Plot Lines and Highlights

1) Sean Penn giving an iconic unforgettable performance as Jeff Spicoli- the residential Ridgemont High burn-out- literally living the high life and we're simply alone for the ride.

This was, really, the only part of the movie I really remembered. This character who was totally rad [yeah, I'm typing this with a surfer dude accent]. How he was at constant odds with the teacher, Mr. Hand- perhaps THE BSer you don't BS [to paraphrase Jane Lynch in "Role Models"].

Two scenes that stand out with the two of them:
a) Spicoli orders pizza in class and Mr. Hand proceeds to give it away to the rest of the students (without having to say "I hope you brought enough for everybody")
b) Mr. Hand "wasting" 8 hours of Spicoli's time, tutoring him so he can pass the class

Spicoli also got away with the biggest transgression in epic fashion. He was driving the football star's sports car and, while distracted, got it in a wreck. But then he got it painted and blamed it on the rival football team.

2) Rat and Stacy are looking for love in all the wrong places... before they find each other, lose each other, and find each other again

maybe it's pure coincidence that Amy Heckerling had a mall scene in "Clueless" after introducing the iconic 80's shopping mall to film with "Ridgemont High"... the mere idea of the shopping mall is older, but this was the one of the first instances in pop culture where it was synonymous with "teen hangout spot"

This setting happens to be where we're introduced to these two characters. Rat's an usher at the movie theater and Stacy works with her friend Linda in the food court. He sees her across the way and spends the movie pursuing her, with the help of his scalper friend, Mike.

Stacy, meanwhile, is eager to lose her virginity. Linda gives her a crash course in oral sex using a carrot in the school cafeteria. This never comes to fruition on screen, which is probably the right way to go on this.
Her first is with a stereotypical hunky guy, but based on her expression, it wasn't what she thought it would be. It just seemed awkward.

One thing I will say for this movie: it has a hard R-rating. Not a soft R-rating that could be downgraded to PG13 when it was introduced in 1984.

When she and Rat finally go out, he foolishly forgets his wallet and calls Mike to bring it. Later that night, they're alone in her bedroom. (One of multiple scenes where she takes off her shirt and is magically not wearing a bra... between that and her sexual urges... I'm all for women taking charge, but I found that part of her character very off-putting).
For whatever reason, he's not entirely into it and bails before they get any further.

Stacy's next target: Mike. Perhaps to make Rat jealous enough to crawl back to her. Instead, this results in a pregnancy, an abortion and a revelation for multiple characters (in the view of themselves, their co-stars and the audience).

*Linda turns all the girls in the school against Mike after finding out he knocked her up and wasn't exactly helpful afterwards.
*Stacy finally slows down and resolves to look for a real relationship rather than a cheap one-night stand.
*However goofy he may be at times, Brad is the best big brother EVER

3) Brad Hamilton's various misadventures

Due to multiple unfortunate circumstances, Brad cannot hold onto a job. He was probably one of the main honor students when he was in school. A real teacher's pet/goody-two-shoes type. But he cannot catch a break.
The most hilarious: he gets fired after cursing out an irate unsatisfied customer. Honestly, the [customer] dude had it coming, very rude. In Brad's defense, he was following procedure. Having him fill out paperwork about his dissatisfaction. If not for the whole, "Mister, if you don't shut up I'm gonna kick one hundred percent of your ass!" comment, he might have gotten away scot-free.
[still love that quote, I burst out laughing and cheered during that part of the movie]

The most famous scene that all the guys remember about this movie is the Phoebe Cates fantasy sequence. The edited version I saw on TV stopped it just as it began, so I didn't see much of it.
Speaking to the nudity, Phoebe Cates was perfection.
Can anyone really blame Brad for getting hot and heavy about it? [Her reaction to walking in on him was priceless as well as authentic surprise... IMDB mentions it on their trivia page].
Despite all those iffy moments [although for me, I didn't mind him nearly as much as the other characters did], Brad shined in the post-abortion scene. We see Stacy after the fact in the recovery room, telling the nurse that her boyfriend is waiting for her outside [she can't go home by herself], and goes downstairs to find Brad waiting for her. She didn't come out and say where she was going, but he looked out for her like a good big brother should.

And that karma rewards him in the final scene. His 3rd job in the span of this movie [burger world and the pirate restaurant were the others], which happens to be at your clichéd 7-11 type place that frequently gets robbed. Lucky for him, Spicoli was shopping at the time and had the genius idea to throw hot coffee in the would-be robber's face.
After which, Brad grabs his gun and holds him there until the police arrive.

"Way to go, Rosewood. You're some kinda cop, you know that."
[My love of "Beverly Hill Cop" also led me to this movie and kinda had me disappointed with the overall product... but this actor did not].
Probably the best part about this movie:
We find out what happens to all the characters afterwards. It's not a luxury we're often allowed, but in this case, it was nice to get some closure. It certainly provided more laughs, something I found this movie short on.
  • Rat & Stacy get together and are taking it slow.
  • Mike gets more bad karma when his scalping ways catch up with him... involving Ozzy Osbourne tickets.
  • Linda moves in with her UC Riverside Abnormal Psychology professor [why she's taking that course, I have no idea... unless she got the idea from that field trip to the morgue... led by the actor who played the Subway ghost in "Ghost"].
  • Spicoli blows the money he got for saving Brooke Shields from drowning on a Van Halen concert- for his birthday party.
  • And yes, Mr. Hand still believes everyone's on drugs. Probably did until the day he died in 2001... well, the actor did. But Mr. Hand is definitely one of the most memorable movie teachers.
Final Word: Music
Gotta hand it to the 80's for their music and how it's often used in movies in clever ways.
One of the songs led me to write this entry in the first place. "Somebody's Baby" by Jackson Browne was on the radio this morning and played at least three times through the course of the movie... almost like it was Stacy's theme song.
I forget which song it was, maybe "We've got the beat" by The Go-Go's. But we heard it on the radio when we went out for dinner after watching this movie and the DJ namedropped the movie after it finished playing.
And I'd since heard "American Girl" at least three times. :P it was just a couple months ago where Kurt & Blaine performed it on "Glee" and I loved it, thinking how I hadn't heard the song in years and they did a great job with it.

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