And as we get closer to a holiday weekend? Fast Times at Ridgemont High. The 80’s were a strange time for the Teen Sex Comedy. It was still evolving. Films like the Last American Virgin, the Sure Thing and Risky Business, there was a tendency to pull drama into the comedy.
Fast Times is no different. Yes, you have the heavily comedic moments, like Spicoli (Sean Penn) and his nemesis Mr. Hand (Ray Walston). Or Phoebe Cates walking in on a sensitive moment for Judge Reinhold. But you also have more somber moments, specifically in the story of Stacy (Jennifer Jason Leigh) which takes a dark and painful turn.
Here, director Amy Heckerling works with a pretty amazing cast. Her focus seems to be the characters and really, if there is a criticism I can lob at the film, it is mostly feeling like a bunch of loosely connected vignettes. They only cross paths out of individual necessity. And really, there is a certain aspect of true life to that. Afterall, life is not one straight through-line, it is a variety of interconnected stories (our relationship to each other).
Like most of the Teen Sex Comedies, the film doesn’t really endorse casual teen sex. It tends to make it look like a dark world of heartbreak and disappointment. Ebert saw this as a criticism in his review. I am not sure I agree. Sex and disappointment are not the only options in story-telling…but they are certainly very compelling story-lines (it is kind of why I suspect filmmakers tend to focus on stories where women get unexpectedly keep their baby-it offers a specific direct. Abortion ends the story rather quickly). But I always have felt the way teen sex is handled in the case of Stacy works well. It’s heartbreaking, both thanks to the topic and performances, and it is well done.
It is not a perfect film, but when laid next to what this genre became in the 2000’s? It’s far more effective. What has me really curious though, is to see the seven episode TV series spun off which starred Dean Cameron as Spicoli.