Fast Times at Ridgemont High ★★★★½

I was lying on the couch, trying to survive another 100 degree afternoon in the Valley with my giant living room fan positioned directly in front of me, while I stared up at my Blu-Ray wall. For some odd reason, FAST TIMES was poking out at me and I felt compelled to throw it on.

Been years since I've seen this, but I have a vague memory that blends this with all the other "outrageous" comedies of the early 80's: PORKY'S, ANIMAL HOUSE, REVENGE OF THE NERDS. I always remembered this being along the lines of one of those, but revisiting now, I realize this is so much more.

This could be one of the most real, straight forward and honest high school movies ever made. With Cameron Crowe's script and Amy Heckerling's directing, they completely capture the timelessness, awkwardness and general "unsure" feelings & realities of being a teenager.

Between the friendships, the candid and open sex talk, the realistic depictions of sex, high school break ups, monotonous retail jobs, loss of innocence and good ol' surfer, stoner Jeff Spicoli (Sean Penn in the template role for Bill, Ted, and any other Valley dude that followed), it's a mix of all the various, complex emotions we all endured, which is what surviving high school is all about.

Most comedies of this time period usually overdid or treated sex with a sense of exaggeration, yet here, when Jennifer Jason Leigh's 15 year old Stacy Hamilton loses her virginity to an older guy on a park bench, the camera shifts to her POV, revealing the dirty wall, the words "surf nazi" scrawled on the ceiling of the bleachers - the banality of it all. She confesses the next day to her older best friend Linda that it hurt, and she assures her, "it won't hurt as much the more you do it." After watching hundreds of 80's comedies from this era, I didn't realize how frank and real this scene depicted what it's usually really like.

Judge Reinhold's Brad Hamilton has got it all! He's manager of a fast food joint, he's got a great girlfriend (even though he wants to break up with her), and he's gearing up for college. Then he loses the job, the girlfriend breaks up with him, and Linda walks in on him in the bathroom masturbating to her. Oof! Hilarious scene, but brutal!

Mike Damone is the fun loving ticket scalper of the school. A generally cool guy, often giving advice to his buddy Rat. But one random night, he finds himself with Stacy (Leigh) and they have sex. Next thing, she's pregnant. And he doesn't show up to help her through it. (Reminded me of THE LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN here.) These are all real characters and real kids going through very real ordeals, and reacting to them in the way kids normally would.

The film has it's share of laughs, most from Penn's Spicoli, who at one points orders for a pizza delivery to class. Or the complete audio gag that only a Led Zeppelin nerd would pick up on when Rat plays "Kashmir" on a date, not realizing it's absolutely the wrong song he was recommended.

In an era of countless movies with teens in high school doing high school shit, this one stands the test of time, and is better than almost all of them. No wonder the creative forces behind this went on to have great movie careers.