TCM presented a showing of 1982’s comedy classic Fast Times at Ridgemont High today through Fathom Events and it gave me a chance to see the film. Though there were several scenes that I was familiar with, I do not believe that I ever saw the entire film until today.
Fast Times was a film based on a book from then 22-year old Cameron Crowe, whom went undercover as a high school senior and wrote an expose on what he saw. The book would become a high school comedy filled with a great cast and some real life situations that caused a stir.
There were plenty of references to drugs and to sex. In fact, according to today’s pre-show, the film was initially rated X, until there were some cuts made to bring the rating down to R.
And you can see why the film was rated that way. It had characters that spoke in a matter-of-fact manner about many sexual situations as well as there being plenty of nudity and simulated drug use.
However, the film was more than just that. In fact, though most of the characters appear to be the typical stereotyped characters we have come to know from these high school movies, the Fast Times characters were actually quite well developed. You could understand the basis for the choices these young people made and the film did not shy away a frank illustration of the youth culture of the times.
Plus, Fast Times is really funny. Led by Sean Penn’s iconic stoner Spicoli, there are some great comedic performances here. It was also wonderful to see the late, great Ray Walston as Spicoli’s foil, Mr. Hand. That relationship was over-the-top, but it was sweet and surprisingly realistic. It is the type of teacher-student adversarial relationship that other films have tried to include but with which they failed miserably.
Now, Fast Times is far from perfect. There was a decisively missing plot, as the film was really more of a series of scenes involving these characters. The film gets away with that because these characters are so likeable, but the story structure was definitely lacking. There were also some seriously lacking of parental figures for these kids. Were they all just roaming around freely?
I enjoyed seeing the special presentation of Fast Times today, and I can see where many of the film’s ideas and concepts were copied and used with lesser extent in the years since.