Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Fast Times At Ridgemont High

1982, US, directed by Amy Heckerling

A high school classic, Fast Times at Ridgemont High has no plot to speak of: it's just a collection of vignettes capturing life in a Southern California high school in the early 1980's, before the ubiquity of computers, cell phones, MTV and, on the darker side, the spectre of AIDS. Fast Times reveals that teenagers Like Cars! Have Sex! and Do Drugs! It seems a little quaint after years of media obsession with school violence and hard drug use in the intervening period, but what ensures that the film continues to work is the performances - including that of the casting director, who unearthed an extraordinary variety of young actors on the verge of success: Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Judge Reinhold, Phoebe Cates, Eric Stoltz, Forest Whitaker and, in the blink-and-you'll-miss-'em department, Anthony Edwards and Nicolas Cage (under the name Nicolas Coppola). Most of the talent does a good job with the various high school types, but the undoubted standout is Sean Penn as stoner Spicoli. He's hilarious and endearing - so good that you wonder at the almost complete lack of comic fare in his subsequent resume.

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