Fast Times at Ridgemont High

I missed seeing Fast Times at Ridgemont High in the theater. I was fifteen at the time, and although I have seen bits and pieces over the years, until tonight I had never seen the film in its entirety.  As part of TCM/Fathom Events classic film series, I finally got to see it on the big screen just as I would have in 1981. Well, almost. The film did pretty well, so probably there would have been more than two people in the audience.

My wife and I, literally, were the only ones in the theater.  I’m not sure a bigger audience would have made much difference for me though. The film’s 78% critic and 80% audience ratings are generous.  According to the Wiki, the story primarily is about Stacy and Mark, but it spends most of its time floundering on Mark’s sleazy ticket scalper friend, Mike.  Although Mike is the least likable, none of the characters are particularly sympathetic, and the film’s strength lies in the way it’s able to depict them as more pathetic and sad rather than unlikable, the victims of the ever-present teenagers’ affliction of wanting to grow up too fast. Except for Spicoli, of course.

Speaking of Spicoli, what would he be without Mr. Hand? Ray Walston gives a great performance as the teacher determined not to let anyone get the best of him. Without the comic relief of Spicoli, the film falls completely flat, and without Mr. Hand, so does Spicoli.

I’m glad to have seen it, and it’s not terrible. In terms of gratuitous nudity, it’s actually pretty great. Otherwise though, mostly it just makes me want to watch Dazed and Confused again.


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