Top positive review
8 people found this helpful
on 1 October 2012
I was keen to watch Fast Times at Ridgemont High, because whenever I read anything about a teen high school comedy, Fast Times is always referred to as the template to all the films that followed. Admittedly the genre itself isn't anything to write home about but, I was extremely curious what the mould that spawned oh so many awful cheap imitations would be like to watch, would it be any good? More to the point, why is it so fondly remembered by a certain subset of the movie going public who saw it when the film first arrived in 1982?
The first thing I noticed about fast times is how many now famous faces were in this film, it is truly amazing! The slew of current day icons include Sean Penn, Nicolas Cage (in a very minor blink and you'll miss him role) and Forest Whitaker
I was born the year after this film was released so I'm not that far removed from the culture of it but I can see how Fast Times at Ridgemont High is a product of its times, and so may seem hopelessly out of date to a newer generation raised on facebook and other attention deficit disorder producing media, but after seeing it now for the first time some 30 years after its release, the film is still surprisingly engaging and often pretty funny, if undeniably somewhat dated.
While Fast Times at Ridgemont High is very segmented and anecdotal, the anecdotes themselves are filled with little character moments which are fascinating, compelling, and most importantly, emotional. Even the stoned out lunacy of Sean Penn's character, Spicoli is oddly truthful in its own way, and Penn's completely amazing performance simply knocks it out of the park with the tiniest moments of insight behind the completely believably intoxicated eyes.
For a comedy the film has a rather serious subtext as the characters of the film find themselves on the cusp of adulthood without all of the necessary tools to effectively make the transition.
The director also deserves major kudos, aided and abetted by a keen cast, many of whom, I imagine, were just beginning their professional careers, the film is able to move swiftly along at a somewhat manic pace that is always stays more or less under control.
Unlike some other films of the time, Fast Times at Ridgemont High has aged surprisingly well. Saturated with some fantastic performances by a group of young people who would go on to pretty much define acting for a whole generation, with some equally strong direction, this is a film with obviously modest ambitions that has transcended it's modesty and is somehow surprisingly refined and actually rather profound at times.