Hey, dudes! Usually I just watch current movies. “I hate watching today’s movies, dudes! All the action’s in the classics, bro! …There are many of us that like classic movies, dudes & dudettes. Every time I go to one, I look around and say, ‘Hey I know that dude!!’. Lemme tell ya, Blogging the Classics: It’s no hobby; it’s a way of life! It’s a way of looking at that screen and saying, ‘Hey bud, let’s party!’”
Amy Heckerling’s Fast Times at Ridgemont High, a coming of age comedy about the escapades of a group of returning Ridgemont students over the ’81/’82 school year, became an instant classic when released in 8/82. The implied setting is Southern CA. Like all high school kids, they experiment with sex & drugs & rock ’n’ roll! There’s the total stoner, Spicoli (Sean Penn), and his continual battle of wills with ultra-square history teacher, Mr. Hand (My Favorite Martian, Ray Walston). Jennifer Jason Leigh plays sophomore, Stacy, whose main focus is losing her virginity. Her best friend, Linda (Phoebe Cates), is an ‘experienced’ senior who eggs her on. Her brother, Brad (Judge Reinhold), is hot for Linda and a little too obsessed with his job at All American Burger. Another sophomore, Rat (Brian Backer), really likes Linda. There’s the sleazy, full-of-himself scalper, Damone (Robert Romanus); nerdy Arnold (Scott Thomson); Eric Stolz, best known for his brilliant portrayal of Rocky in Peter Bogdanovich’s Mask, makes his non-TV movie debut; and Vincent Schiavelli of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest fame is the eccentric science teacher, Mr. Vargas.
Although Fast Times wears well, it’s all about the pop culture of the time. Several girls cultivate the Pat Benatar look; and the music of the early 80’s permeates the soundtrack, which makes sense given that Cameron Crowe – a writer for Rolling Stone Magazine when it was all about music – adapted the screenplay from his novel. There are references to Elvis Costello, Led Zeppelin and Tom Petty to name a few. And Forest Whitaker, who plays star football player Charles Jefferson, first appears on screen in a Ridgemont jacket whose Wolf logo resembles the one on Jerry Garcia’s most famous Doug Irwin guitar a bit too closely for coincidence.
Although Fast Times received no Oscar or Golden Globe nominations, it was entered into the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry in 2005. It utilizes an ensemble cast, meaning there is no one or two main stars. This is really a plot technique which allows the action to be split among a wide variety of actors and, as such, is very common in television series. Bit parts in ensemble features are sometimes filled by future big names: Watch for Nicholas Coppola (who changed his surname to Cage for his next film), Brad’s co-worker at All American Burger. Sometimes they’re springboards: 3 future Best Actor Oscar Winners are in this film (Penn twice, Cage & Whitaker). And they usually have cameos – brief appearances by famous people. Heart’s guitarist, Nancy Wilson (Crowe’s girlfriend & later wife until 3 years ago) and Heckerling’s then husband, David Brandt (the front man for the real rock band Reeves Nevo & the Cinch), are in the film. Brandt, a re-married NJ psychoanalyst, was last seen in September stuck on the George Washington Bridge. A few other important ensemble films that come to mind: Crash; American Graffiti; and Coppola’s twin 1983 releases, The Outsiders and Rumble Fish. So, before you watch the trailer for Amy Heckerling’s wonderful ensemble in Fast Times at Ridgemont High embedded below, “Who ordered the double cheese & sausage?”. 3 Stars!