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Fast Times at Ridgemont High

Directed by Amy Heckerling

I found it impossible to watch Fast Times at Ridgemont High without constantly comparing it to Dazed and Confused. Both films are relatively plot-less films examining teen life in the Eighties and Seventies respectively. Both feature a large cast of attractive young performers hanging out and coming to grips with approaching adulthood. However, I found Fast Times to be wildly inauthentic. It isn’t funny and has nothing particularly insightful to say about coming of age. That’s odd because it’s source material, a book by Cameron Crowe about his year going undercover in a California high school, is purportedly nonfiction, while Dazed and Confused is an original story written by Richard Linklater. I could go on and on about all the ways in which Fast Times is inferior, but it really boils down to the fact that it’s an incredibly mean-spirited movie. It features kids trying all of these new experiences they weren’t even aware of until they were teenagers, most notably sex, and have terrible things happen to them. The female protagonist is a victim of rape (statutory, but still), premature ejaculation, and even ends up dealing with an unplanned pregnancy and a subsequent abortion. And this is supposed to be a comedy! By the end of the film I had no idea what Heckerling was trying to accomplish. The film shifts tones so wildly between attempts at drama, comedy, and eroticism that it ends up becoming a jumbled mess that leaves the audience feeling nothing.

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