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With: Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Phoebe Cates, Judge Reinhold, Eric Stoltz
Written by: Cameron Crowe, based on his book
Directed by: Amy Heckerling
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 90
Date: 08/13/1982

Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Hey Dude, Let's Party

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Based on Cameron Crowe's book, for which he went undercover at a real high school, Fast Times at Ridgemont High centers around several characters and their problems, none of which have anything to do with homework or studying.

Sean Penn plays by far the most effective and memorable character, the stoner/surfer Jeff Spicoli, who gets all the best lines and whose look inspired a season of fashion statements. Jennifer Jason Leigh plays Stacy, a shy, naive girl who feels the pressure to have sex in order to stay up to date. Phoebe Cates is Linda, her cheerful friend who plays like she has more experience than she actually has. And Judge Reinhold plays Stacy's older brother Brad, whose coveted job helps pay for his coveted car, but who can't get his priorities straight. Mike (Robert Romanus) is the school's wannabe cool guy who scalps concert tickets; his best friend is the school shy guy "Rat" (Brian Backer).

I must have seen Fast Times at Ridgemont High a dozen times in the summer of 1983 when it debuted on cable, just before I entered high school. It clicked with my friends and myself because of its odd mix of emotional truth combined with sex and stoner comic relief. We wanted to be like Spicoli, but in reality we were more like "Rat," and the film allowed us to safely identify with both.

Director Amy Heckerling (Clueless) almost encourages the film's shapelessness, letting the individual moments speak for themselves, rather than molding a cohesive whole. Yet the lazy direction gives the film a kind of grungy look (even on DVD), which is rescued only by the bouncy early 1980s song selection.

Universal released the DVD as part of the two-disc "Ultimate Party Collection," along with Dazed and Confused (1993). Extras include a commentary track by Heckerling and Crowe and several featurettes.

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