Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Fast Times at Ridgemont High

This classic tale of teenage sexuality centers around a group of teens all going to Ridgemont High. Stacey Hamilton (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is coming of age and grappling with her newly found sexuality, looking to the expert older girl, Phoebe Cates (Linda Barrett) for guidance. Brad Hamilton (Judge Reinhold) is trying to gain control in a dying, sexless relationship in order to preserve his masculine, senior dignity. Mark "Rat" Ratner (Brian Backer) seeks advice from "experienced" Mike Damone (Robert Romanus) on the ways of women, and specifically, how to attract Stacey. Jeff Spicoli (Sean Penn) humorously punctuates the film as the stoner stereotype, battling unpopular teacher Mr. Hand (Ray Walston), as best he knows how.

The movie is the penultimate guide to 80s high school sexuality, where every character seems concerned primarily with how to attract it, keep it, and use it. Hamilton's missteps guide the film as she thrusts herself into purely sexual experiences without the jaded understanding needed to assume truly casual sexual encounters. First, she's disappointed when it becomes clear she lost her virginity in a one-night stand; second, she winds up pregnant from another disappointed one-time (one-minute) encounter with Damone. By the end of the film, she finally realizes she can't get the relationship she wants without pursuing love, instead of sex. Her discussions with Cates in the meantime, however, are humorous:

Stacy Hamilton: When a guy has an orgasm, how much comes out?
Linda Barrett: A quart or so.

These kinds of conversations run throughout the film. Damone's conversations with Ratner are more humorous after his sexual encounter with Hamilton shows the extent of Damone's experience, all total five minutes of it.

Mike Damone: I mean don't just walk in. You move across the room. And you don't talk to her. You use your face. You use your body. You use everything. That's what I do. I mean I just send out this vibe and I have personally found that women do respond. I mean, something happens.
Mark Ratner: Well, naturally something happens. I mean, you put the vibe out to 30 million chicks, something is gonna happen.

The movie does portray the results of Hamilton's sexual missteps when she appeals to Damone, asking for money for her abortion. The storyline is odd given its mostly-humorous premise, though any emotional consequences or reflection on abortion in general from Hamilton is non-existent. The film, however, is a good piece of 80s bubble gum cinema, fairly superfluous and entertaining all in one.

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