Thursday, December 22, 2016

Directorial Debut: Amy Heckerling's FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH

Welcome to another installment of DIRECTORIAL DEBUT, where we take a look at some of the best, most interesting, and iconic directors and the films that started their careers. This week we take  a look at Amy Heckerling's hilarious debut, FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH.

Fast Times at Ridgemont High remains a relevant piece of pop culture, even today, with most people remembering the famous swimsuit scene with Phoebe Cates. This movie gives a realistic view of high school, with all of the classic character tropes. You have Linda Barrett (Phoebe Cates), the pretty girl who dates older guys, Brad Hamilton (Judge Reinhold), the senior guy who thinks he has it all, Spicoli (Sean Penn), the typical stoner, and Stacy Hamilton (Jennifer Jason Leigh), the loyal best friend and little sister of Brad. Interesting side note, Jennifer Jason Leigh was only 15 when she starred in this film.

Hollywood has always used stereotypes when making movies about the high school experience. There is some truth to these stereotypes, but filmmakers tend to exaggerate them in their films. When I went to high school, I knew and was friends with people similar to the students portrayed in this film.

This movie also launched the careers of several young actors, including Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Nicolas Cage and Eric Stolz to name a few. I thought all the actors were great in this film, but Jennifer Jason Leigh stood out because of the provocative roles she took after Fast Times in films Rush and Single White Female.

One of my favorite scenes in the movie is when Spicoli's history teacher, Mr. Hand shows up at his house because of all the time Spicoli wasted in his class. The look on Sean Penn's face was priceless.

This film has definitely endured in popularity over time due to its portrayal of life as a teenager. In high school, we have crushes, first jobs, and we are trying to become the adults we are told we are meant to be. Heckerling continued to explore this in another iconic film in the world of pop culture, Clueless.  If Fast Times is a showcase of the 80's, Clueless was undoubtedly a showcase of the 90's.

So, what did the critics think of this iconic teen comedy? Roger Ebert wasn't too fond of it but he praised the performances of Sean Penn, Judge Reinhold, Phoebe Cates and Jennifer Jason Leigh. The film has a certified fresh rating of 78% on Rotten Tomatoes.

This film has endured for the past thirty years in part to Sean Penn's performance, and the way, it portrayed high school in a realistic manner. This film was hilarious and had great comedic timing, and if you haven't seen it yet, do yourself a favor and check it out now.

Lisa's Score: 8.5/10

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