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Vintage Videos: Senior shenanigans at 'Ridgemont High'

POSTED: August 14, 2014 1:00 a.m.

It’s that time again. The school year has officially begun, which means early, hurried mornings, school supply lists and dents in your wallet for lunch money. Oh joy!

While I do not have a youngster myself, it wasn’t too long ago that I was one of the many grumpily heading off to school in the early mornings with coffee in hand.

To mark this time of year, what better movie to watch than “Fast Times at Ridgemont High?”

This 1982 teen comedy details the lives of a group of high school teenagers and transported me back in time 7 years ago to my senior year. But let me tell you, my senior year was not nearly as interesting as these kids’.

Starring Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Phoebe Cates and Judge Reinhold, “Fast Times” is actually Amy Heckerling’s cinematic take on a book written by Cameron Crowe. Crowe went undercover to research the book, spending a year at a high school in California where he befriended students and wrote observations about their respective lives.

So if you feel like you can relate to some of the characters, it’s because these things actually happened. That’s pretty cool.

The film is structured in a way that we follow each character’s story lines, without having an overarching plot, climax or resolution.

Stacy Hamilton (Leigh) is the younger sister of popular boy Brad Hamilton (Reinhold). She’s very young and innocent, but curious when it comes to men. Her friend Linda (Cates) gives her advice on boys (*sigh* oh, high school) and Stacy begins to be more, shall we say, active. She tries to throw herself at Mark (Brian Backer), but when he gets scared, she moves on to his best friend Mike (Robert Romanus). Ahem.

As we all know, choices have consequences and Stacy is forced to make very adult decisions at a very young age.

When the movie is not focused on the boy-girl-boy-girl characters, Jeff Spicoli (Penn) offers the comic relief as a stoned surfer guy and his arch nemesis, his history teacher Mr. Hand. If I wasn’t against saying “lol,” I would say “lol.” It’s that funny.

I always heard this film takes a fresh perspective on teen high school drama, especially for its time, and I can now see why. The characters are all interesting, ranging from popular boy of the school to pot-smoking junkie. And they all face issues teens can oftentimes face such as drugs, sex and high school pressures.

Although this film didn’t speak to my personal high school experience, I feel things about the film and the teen sex comedy genre in general that many people can relate to. Because hey, we were all young once!

Chelsea Tench is a columnist for The Times. She can be reached at


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