Fast Times At Ridgemont High (HD-DVD/DVD Combo format)
Picture: B/B- Sound: B Extras: B- Film: B-
Heckerling’s Fast Times At Ridgemont
High (1982) is one of those hit films that was never good, always overrated
and actually trivializes the 1980s as much as it always distracted from what
was really going on at the time. Later
teen films like Donnie Darko
(reviewed elsewhere on this site) got it right and Martha Coolidge’s Real Genius (1985) remains the best
film form the period in the cycle.
However, it was this Cameron Crowe-penned film that was the bigger hit
(his screenplay is based on his book) and the first problem is the incoherency
of his young 1970s look at what we now call Classic Rock and Heckerling’s more
stars Jennifer Jason Leigh as the young pizza maker who becomes involved in a
love triangle that pits Matt (Robert Romanus) and Mark (Brian Becker) against
each other despite being best friends.
She handles the relationships and sex very well to her credit, as well
as interesting side characters including constantly job-switching Brad (Judge
Reinhold, underrated in his comic timing here), Phoebe Cates, Forrest
Whittaker, Eric Stoltz, James Russo, Anthony Edwards, a then-unknown Nicolas
Cage, Ray Walston as the no-nonsense teacher and Sean Penn as the forerunner of
spaced-out California Valley Guys as Jeff Spicoli.
has been singled out for favoring women because of its female director, but
Crowe is the underlying author and intended or not, the film runs into
interesting trouble about sexuality. The
quest to loose virginity (read becoming possibly gay) is more obviously so and
using a Led Zeppelin song at that time was considered the kind of music only “straight”
guys listened to because it was not weak (read gay) while the girls express
sexual desires though dialogue and action that are extremely aimed at males
only. The message is, to some extent, that
this is a gay-free movie zone.
barely even any comic gay characters, so in a time where it seems gay
characters are thrown in just to be politically correct, is this the idea of a
film that is about straight teens only and one anyone still wants? Well, with the other aspects that work and
the fact that the film was not trying to be political. Thanks to Heckerling, the guys even have some
vulnerable moments that do not scream homophobic, so any such results are
limited by her at least. How this
extends to Crowe is not clear and reading his book would not necessarily give
us an answer, though his later successes (Almost
Famous and …Say Anything, still
his best film) show otherwise and/or a maturing. To say any more about the plot would spoil
it, but there is more to see.
that this film is the beginning of the current cycle of teen films for better
and worse, but it is more than a few times trying to knock-off from George
Lucas’ American Graffiti (1973) all
the way down to Judge Reinhold’s character having his hands on a vintage
car. One film with a more strongly male
cast that came out closer to Heckerling’s film as responsible for contributing
to the cycle is Barry Levinson’s Diner,
released the same year as this film and covering the same decade as the Lucas
worse, director Joel Schumacher’s badly written knock-off of Diner, 1985’s St. Elmo’s Fire, which gave us “The Brat Pack” and was the first
film about the group known as Yuppies.
You really do not see them here, but they were on the rise in 1982. Heckerling’s film is better than
Schumacher’s, but it does not have the realism of Levinson’s film or the later
rare realistic teen films like Scott Smith’s Roller Coaster (reviewed elsewhere on this site) and Larry Clark’s
films (Kids, Wassup Rockers and
especially Bully) that are not as
popular because they are not as pandering.
the things that do work and are interesting here, Fast Times At Ridgemont High ultimately is more about producing
plastic pop culture than reflecting anything realistically, but we give the
Heckering/Crowe team credit for being ambitious and it is obvious (especially
as compared to Almost Famous and …Say Anything) not the film it could
have been thanks to studio interference.
Too bad a new cut by Heckerling with her original song choices were not
is in decent shape for both versions in its original 1.85 X 1 aspect ratio,
with the anamorphically enhanced standard DVD version not bad and the 1080p
digital High Definition version being just a little better throughout. Color is not bad, though the source can show
its age. Cinematographer Matthew F.
Leonetti started as a cameraman for TV and that was perfect for an early 1980s
mall movie, with this one literally set at one often. Color is not bad, but nothing special. At his best, he went on to work with director
Walter Hill and more commercial fare like Weird
Science and Commando. His films always have a slightly
prefabricated look to them and this is one of the standouts in that respect.
monophonic sound has been upgraded to Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 for the HD-DVD
side and DTS on the DVD side, which you can notice from the information coming
more form the front channels and having only so much separation. The best song is The Go Go’s We Got The Beat, then the film goes into
decline from there, despite boasting a Led Zeppelin classic. The Go Gos have a second cut, The Cars get a
cut and (prophetically) Oingo Bongo has a song.
More annoying than ever is the Jackson Browne hit Somebody’s Baby, where many felt he sold out and then started
taking himself too seriously. It is even
used more than once, but it is still not as annoying as the theme of St. Elmo’s Fire, which is an
achievement of musical terror and idiocy all its own!
audio commentary with Crowe and Heckerling, she explains how she had little
control over the music and it shows, especially in the odd ways the film has
dated. She says she wanted more Punk
songs (ala Rock N Roll High School
reviewed elsewhere on this site) and that might have given it both a better
edge and allowed it to hold up better.
Other extras include text production notes, the original theatrical
trailer, an interactive video map of the film’s locations and featurette about
the film. Fans will be happy for the
most part, though it does not capture as much of the early 1980s as many think.
- Nicholas Sheffo