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Saturday, May 14, 2016

Thoughts on Fast Times at Ridgemont High

I am on a kick of watching Jennifer Jason Leigh's movies, so I rented Fast Times at Ridgemont High. I have already seen it, and it still holds up well. It is smart and funny, with a great cast of people who blew up big, and it mixes in raunchy humor with three-dimensional portraits of characters. Even the sleazy jerk is shown to be an insecure coward beyond his initial front, which I thought was nice for showing depth.

I don't like Sean Penn as an actor (prefer him as a director), but he was weirdly brilliant in this, and stole the movie.

I liked the girls' supportive friendship, how neither judged the other for their sexual practices or choices of guys, how abortion wasn't treated too shamefully, and how much of a time capsule it was of the 80's, especially in one scene of homophobia where Spicoli calls some guys fags. Even Judge Reinhold was funny in this, I forgot that his character is a likable dork.

I read Roger Ebert's review of it from 1982, and he hated the film, giving it one star. He thought it was exploitative of Leigh (because her character starts out a virgin and becomes promiscuous fast and shows her breasts twice), that it was dirty humor with no class (he defended Animal House, and I thought that was more sexist than this), that Leigh's character is humiliated in disappointing sexual encounters (I liked the realism that she learns early on that sex is overhyped and gets over her phase and wants a real boyfriend and slows things down with her nerd love interest), that the abortion part was rushed and forgotten quickly (again, I liked that she was supported by her brother; the jerk initially tried to raise his half of the cost before chickening out, and she moved on with her life and wasn't shamed for it), and that he was amazed a woman directed it (a man did write it, but it was clearly a collaborative process). I don't find the movie relatable, but I still think it was better than other teen sex comedies that were more degrading to women or were more gross.

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