Fast Times at Ridgemont High
Stacy Hamilton (Leigh) is a high school freshman who works at Perry’s pizza parlor with the more sexually experienced Linda Barrett (Cates). Mark Ratner (Backer) also works in the mall, as “assistant to the assistant manager” of the movie theater. His friend Mike Damone (Romanus), who also hangs out at the mall scalping rock concert tickets, believes himself to be both worldly and wise in the ways of women. Stacy’s brother Brad (Reinhold) is a relatively popular, if a bit dorky, senior who works at All-American Burger to buy a blue 1960 Buick LeSabre and only has six more payments left (“Six more payments gentlemen, and this beautiful, blue, four-door, luxury sedan is all mine.”) . Surfer Jeff Spicoli (Penn) hotboxes in a Volkswagen Microbus before the final bell rings for the start of a new school year.
The sexually-curious Stacy initially hooks up with a much older home stereo salesman, Ron Johnson of Pacific Stereo — an electronics retailer at the mall. He provides her first sexual experiences, but dumps her a few months later, and then Stacy seeks other relationships.
Stacy and nerdy Mark Ratner end up sharing a biology class. Eventually Ratner asks Stacy out and receives pointers from his friend Damone, the scalper. One of many romance tips is to play side one of Led Zeppelin IV, but we soon hear “Kashmir” from the band’s 1975 double album Physical Graffitias Ratner and Stacy drive to a restaurant. (Due to a licensing snafu, the producers were unable to gain clearances to use songs from Led Zeppelin IV.) The date goes well despite Ratner forgetting his wallet at home and the tape deck being stolen from his sister’s vehicle during their dinner “at such a fancy place.” They go back to her house where she comes on to him in a major way (as “Love Rules” plays), and he chickens out, leaving her there — with nothing but a robe on. He makes the excuse that he must get his sister’s Mazda GLC station wagon back because her car is “her baby” and “she gets crazy when it comes to her car.”
Brad loses his cherished job at All American Burger in a dispute with an unsatisfied customer (“Mister, if you don’t shut up, I’m gonna kick 100 percent of your ass!”) and is forced to take a new job at “Captain Hook Fish and Chips,” a Long John Silvers-styled fish restaurant. Employees are forced to wear ridiculous-looking pirate costumes, and, after being laughed at by an beautiful woman (who happens to be Nancy Wilson of the band, Heart) while on a delivery to “the boys at IBM,” Brad quits this job in disgust while tossing all the “Catch of the Day boxes” into the street out of the “cruising vessel.”
Meanwhile, Spicoli drinks beer and smokes marijuana as he joyrides (“People on ludes should not drive!”) in a 1979 Chevrolet Camaro Z28 owned by Charles Jefferson (Whitaker), star of the football team as “Fast Times At Ridgemont High” by Sammy Hagar plays. The car is a gift from a grateful alumnus, and Jefferson’s little brother, along for the ride, is concerned about its well-being (“You gonna scratch my brotha’s car”). Of course, Spicoli manages to wreck the car (“Hey mon, just be glad I had fast reflexes”); but promises he can fix it — “Relax! Alright? My old man is a television repairman. He’s got this ultimate set of tools. I can fix it!” The next day at school, a large crowd gathers around the front entrance where Jefferson’s totaled car is covered in graffiti making it look as if the rival high school, Lincoln, destroyed it as a prank. Jefferson vents his anger out on the Lincoln football team that night, winning the game and sending Lincoln’s quarterback out of the game on a stretcher.
Spicoli manages to annoy Mr. Hand (Ray Walston), his American History teacher, in a series of amusing sketches, including one in which Spicoli arranges for a pizza delivery in the middle of class by a less-than-thrilled “Pizza Guy” delivery man played by Taylor Negron only to have Mr. Hand take the double-cheese and sausage pizza and distribute its slices to his favored students. In the end, Mr. Hand takes some revenge by visiting Spicoli at his home on the night of the senior prom and administering an impromptu History lesson — long enough to delay Spicoli until well after the prom has started. Still, the teacher relents on the question of whether or not he will flunk Spicoli, telling the stoned surfer that he’ll probably “squeak by.” This is good enough for Spicoli, who, as we learn at the end of the movie, only needs “a cool buzz and some tasty waves” and he’s fine.
Stacy meets and grows attracted to Ratner’s friend, Damone. Stacy invites Damone into her house and asks if he wants to go for a swim. She brings him into the changing booth near the pool. Instead of them swimming as planned, the two have sex in the changing booth. Later, Stacy discovers that she is pregnant with Damone’s child. Damone is unable to come up with half the money to pay for an abortion (Stacy: “$150 at the free clinic.”; Damone: “Doesn’t sound free to me. I suppose you want me to pay for it?”; Stacy: “Half…OK? And a ride to the clinic.”; Damone: “$75 and a ride…OK.”). That night, Damone desperately tries to gather debt from a client who he sold tickets in his scalping but fails. Ashamed, Damone cannot give Stacy the money and doesn’t even give Stacy her promised ride to the clinic. After Damone doesn’t show up, Stacy catches a ride with Brad to a nearby bowling alley under false pretenses. Brad sees Stacy leave the bowling alley and enter the clinic. After the procedure is finished, Brad waits for Stacy outside and talks to her about what happened, though Stacy will not tell him the identity of the father. Linda goes after Damone by scrawling “Prick” in spray paint on his car door and “Little Prick” in marker on his school locker.
Damone and Ratner get into a nasty fight over Stacy after Ratner hears about the relationship and they stop talking. They speak to each other at the prom, however, and their relationship is somewhat repaired. Stacy gives a demure photo of herself to Ratner and makes it clear that she’d like to begin seeing him again. Then we see Brad at his new job at a 7-Eleven-type store, Mi-T-Mart. Spicoli walks in wearing a Colt-45 T-shirt and tries to makes a purchase while fumbling with pocket change, saying the famous line “All I need is some tasty waves, a cool buzz and I’m fine.” He then asks to use the bathroom. A thief pulls up, walks in the door, sprays the security camera, pulls out a pistol and tells Brad to give him the money “NOW! In the safe! Behind the doughnuts!” Spicoli walks out of the bathroom, and inadvertently distracts the thief (“Hey, no towels, mon.”) just long enough for Brad to throw hot coffee in the robber’s face and capture him (“I got you, you son of a bitch!…There goes your ride home!” as the getaway car speeds off), becoming a local hero. Spicoli says, after standing slack-jawed, “Awesome! Totally awesome! Alright Hamilton!” Then breaking into the credits, we see what happens to the students in the future:
- Brad Hamilton – Made manager of Mi-T-Mart June 12.
- Mike Damone – Busted for scalping Ozzy Osbourne tickets. Now working at 7-Eleven.
- Mr. Vargas – Switched back to coffee.
- Linda Barrett – Attending college in Riverside. Now living with her Abnormal Psych professor.
- Rat & Stacy – Having a passionate love affair. But still haven’t gone all the way.
- Mr. Hand – Convinced everyone is on dope.
- Jeff Spicoli – Saved Brooke Shields from drowning. Blows reward money hiring Van Halen to play his birthday party.
This is one of those 80s films that is etched into our subconscious, whether we know it or not, due to the references back to it in pop culture. However, after watching it, I am scratching my head as to why.
Of course, the immortal scene with Phoebe Cates coming out of the pool is a thing of beauty and Jennifer Jason Leigh is a cutie. Sean Penn seems totally lost in this film, yet he’s one of the most memorable characters. Judge Reinhold appears to be the glue that holds it all together.
For me, this film seemed to be in the same vein as Seinfeld, in that there really is no plot to speak about. It’s a movie about nothing in particular. That doesn’t make this a good or bad film, mind you.
I guess I just had trouble following everything that was going on and this movie has been shoved down my throat so much, I had to see what all the fuss was about.
If you want to see one of the quintessential 80s films, then this is one of those you should check out.
3 1/2 out of 5 stars