Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)
June 7, 2022 10:49 AM - Subscribe

Based on the real-life adventures chronicled by Cameron Crowe, Fast Times follows a group of high school students growing up in Southern California. Stacy Hamilton and Mark Ratner are looking for a love interest, and are helped along by their older classmates, Linda Barrett and Mike Damone, respectively. At the center of the film is Jeff Spicoli, a perpetually stoned surfer who faces-off with the resolute Mr. Hand, a man convinced that everyone is on dope.

Starring Jennifer Jason Leigh, Sean Penn, and Judge Reinhold, it's Cameron Crowe's first screenplay and Amy Heckerling's directorial debut. Here's Roger Ebert's 1982 review, and a virtual table read from 2021 with Jennifer Aniston, Brad Pitt, and others.
posted by box (21 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Ray Walston as Mr. Hand gave one of the best performances of the 80s in this picture. I will absolutely die on this hill.
posted by holborne at 12:13 PM on June 7 [9 favorites]


Was it a recent Stranger Things episode that had a joke about someone who returned the videotape for this movie to the rental place stopped at the moment that Phoebe Cates' character takes her bikini top off? I bring it up because it's at the crux of my mixed feelings about this movie. On the one hand, it's got enough of Cameron Crowe's original book in it to seem like it tried to keep Crowe's genuine interest in how high school changed in the several years since he graduated. I was still in high school when this came out, and while not everything lined up with my high school experience--no one surfs Lake Michigan, and I didn't know anyone whose parents would have let them mix a drink every day after school--it was close enough to relate to. On the other hand, the movie has That Scene, and while it didn't invent the teensploitation sex comedy (Porky's came out the year before), it helped the subgenre along.

Well, anyway, the movie was fine, although I've always thought that Judge Reinhold was just a touch too old to pass as a high schooler (ironically, since Crowe was the same age). And I'm also a Mr. Hand fan, as I always liked teachers who were unabashed grown-ups; the ones who tried to be one of the kids always gave me the creeps.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:54 PM on June 7 [3 favorites]




As Karina Longworth notes in her podcast episode on the movie, the irony of That Scene is that it's meant to poke fun at adolescent male sexuality, but in practice became just another scene for horny boys to drool over (and much else besides...). But as a whole, Fast Times holds up extremely well, far better than any of the other teen sex comedies of that era.
posted by Cash4Lead at 2:39 PM on June 7 [3 favorites]


For me, as a seventeen year-old, "that scene" just underscored what I had been feeling about Phoebe Cates since she first appeared on the screen. I came into this thread just to say she made me feel faint, like I'd forgotten to breathe.

I get the exploitation concerns, I do, but I think that scene was sort of mind-blowing and contextually appropriate because in just a few seconds it somehow encapsulated how horniness can just possess some teen boys (certainly it did so to me).
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:01 PM on June 7 [6 favorites]


the irony of That Scene is that it's meant to poke fun at adolescent male sexuality, but in practice became just another scene for horny boys to drool over

"That scene" is pretty tame and is exactly what horny straight high school boys imagined and... did things about. The entire movie watching experience is to vicariously live through fantasies. It's a fantasy, just like the rest of the film. Just like every fiction film.

FTaRH did a far better job at depicting trials and tribulations of high school life than most teen movies. Kids do dumb things and have "dirty" minds. That's the movie.
posted by SoberHighland at 12:38 PM on June 8 [3 favorites]




If nothing else, it has increasingly become a time capsule: in 1982 I was in high school and my youngest sibling was not yet born. He saw the movie at maybe age twenty and he had more than a couple of questions. For one thing, by his high school years, quizzes and handouts came off a printer, not a mimeograph. He was mystified by the sight of an entire classroom all simultaneously leaning forward and inhaling deeply off a test.

For the youngsters among us, the fumes off a fresh handout could get you slightly high. My brother was as startled by this information as you are.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 4:58 PM on June 8 [3 favorites]


I often wonder how differently “that scene” would have played had the backing music been some sort of typical cock-rock anthem rather than the other-worldliness of the Cars Moving in Stereo? The music choice smartly tells the viewer “this is a dream.”

I was two years out of college when FTaRH premiered, and the world it depicted was so unlike the high school world I graduated from just six years earlier. Yet, so much of it seemed familiar, as well. Same issues, just different costumes, I guess. In any case, I loved it.

It would be another eleven years before anyone made a (reasonably accurate) coming-of-age movie aimed at my own high school years.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:23 AM on June 9 [3 favorites]


If nothing else, it has increasingly become a time capsule: in 1982 I was in high school and my youngest sibling was not yet born. He saw the movie at maybe age twenty and he had more than a couple of questions. For one thing, by his high school years, quizzes and handouts came off a printer, not a mimeograph. He was mystified by the sight of an entire classroom all simultaneously leaning forward and inhaling deeply off a test.

Depends on your school- I've only ever seen a mimeograph machine in person because my middle school was still running off tests and quizzes on one around 1995.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:31 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]


Jennifer Jason Leigh was brilliant.

I also love that the kids here, unlike even the adults in most movies, were dealing with financial difficulty.

Any discussion of the shame-free but realistic representation of abortion, including the financial difficulties placed on the women who need them most?
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 1:45 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]


She will have the knockwurst. I'll have the same.

This movie came out the summer before my freshman year, and let me tell you it ruined several of my classmates. In that way that teens act out and can't stop talking, well, Spicoli lines were a favorite. This movie is burned into my genes.

Maybe That Scene was too overpowering, maybe sheltered 14 year olds have no grasp of nuance and subtext, but I didn't even pick up on the Brad jerking off part of it the first time I saw the movie. I thought he was just going to the bathroom and having a bit of a daydream. I mean, personally I picked up on the Phoebe part (as pointed out above), but within the movie I didn't catch it. Hrmph.

And yeah, at my impressionable age, Brad and the abortion made a real impact on me of what a good way to be was. My parents were not exactly involved in my adolescence, so there are many instances like this that I used to grow myself up.
posted by rhizome at 7:36 PM on June 10 [3 favorites]


Been so long and I'm not a cinema major.... That Scene for me was a girl getting bonked and loosing her virginity to some older guy with a car who was a three pump chump after her friend pushing the "you're still a virgin?" speech. I would be that other boy.

I probably saw it a year or two later on HBO or something. Probably 13/14 years old freshman/sophomore. Not quite my small town high school, but probably not that to far off.
posted by zengargoyle at 1:46 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]


That Scene for me is the the cut right after the bad sex scene to Linda and Stacy slicing an enormous sausage at the pizza place. Not subtle, but even funnier for its obviousness. (In the original script the girls worked at an ice cream parlor, so I suspect this is an Amy Heckerling touch.)

The runner up is the cut to the car interior after Damone issues his five-point-plan, ending with the recommendation of side 1 of Led Zeppelin IV. (I know, Kashmir isn't even on that album!)
posted by How the runs scored at 6:55 AM on June 12


the recommendation of side 1 of Led Zeppelin IV

For me side 1 of Roxy Music's Avalon had the same effect.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:30 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]


book Ron takes stacey out a few times before they have sex( which she instigates) but it's implied that he knows she's too young for him.

Stacey's coworkers also brag about the fabulous sex they claim they're having and she wants to be cool like them.
posted by brujita at 11:02 AM on June 12


(The book has been out of print forever and is pretty expensive on secondary markets. If people have other book-vs-movie takes, I would be interested in hearing them.)
posted by box at 5:34 PM on June 13


it's available to borrow on the internet archive
posted by brujita at 7:17 PM on June 13 [1 favorite]


Book Linda had gotten into using/dealing in jr high and as part of her rehab joined with a Christian youth org where as a 15 year old becomes involved with a guy in the group 5 years older : still inappropriate .

This doesn't stop her from having recreational sex nor helping Stacey get on the pill. Crowe implies that 15 year old Stacey was on the pill and taking it properly when she gets pregnant.
posted by brujita at 8:03 AM on July 18


I often wonder how differently “that scene” would have played had the backing music been some sort of typical cock-rock anthem rather than the other-worldliness of the Cars Moving in Stereo?

I wonder what that would be like.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:07 AM on August 17


I was today years old when I realized that Jennifer Jason Leigh shows much more skin than Phoebe Cates, and yet it's the latter that everyone remembers.
posted by Melismata at 11:18 AM on August 17


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