Starring: Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Phoebe Cates, Judge Reinhold,
Eric Stoltz, Anthony Edwards
Director: Amy Heckerling
Distributor: Universal Pictures
If you’re all a-dither over Sean Penn after his stellar performances in Mystic River and 21 Grams, it might be a good time to rewind a few decades to the film that gave him his big break back in 1982. I’d never even heard of Fast Times at Ridgemont High and when I announced this to an old friend he looked at me with utter contempt. This was the ultimate cult teen movie, he declared. What had I been doing with my life? Watching arty farty films that the majority of the universe wouldn’t tolerate for five minutes? So I high tailed it down to the video shop, rented out the Collector’s Edition DVD and whacked it in the machine.
Before me flashed a racy flick full of bong-sucking, sex obsessed teenagers who are variously sprung stoned off their skulls, masturbating, practising oral sex with carrots or having abortions, all in a tightly packaged American way. Former Rolling Stones reporter Cameron Crowe (Almost Famous and Jerry Maguire) went undercover as a student in an L.A. high school to research the book on which his script is based and Amy Heckering, who later went on to direct the hit chick flick Clueless, cut her teeth bringing it to the screen. It’s a testament to Heckerlings’ keen eye that she plucked from obscurity so many young actors who later went on to become huge players in the industry including Forest Whitaker and, in a tiny role, Nicholas Cage – don’t blink!
Jennifer Jason Leigh stars as Stacy, the sweet-as-apple-pie girl next door who is encouraged to greater acts of sexual daring by her gorgeous-looking friend Linda (Phoebe Cates), every boys’ dream babe. Stacy’s brother (Judge Reinhold) has a fantasy in which Linda emerges from the swimming pool in all her dripping wet glory and unclips her bikini top to reveal her pubescent breasts, a sequence that has tracking problems on most video copies as a result of being rewound so many times, Heckerling informs us on the Special Feature documentary.