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First of all Rat, you never let on how much you like a girl. "Oh, Debbie. Hi."And five, now this is the most important, Rat. When it comes down to making out, whenever possible, put on side one of Led Zeppelin IV.
Two, you always call the shots. "Kiss me. You won't regret it."
Now three, act like wherever you are, that's the place to be. "Isn't this great?"
Four, when ordering food, you find out what she wants, then order for the both of you. It's a classy move. "Now, the lady will have the linguini and white clam sauce, and a Coke with no ice."
—Mike Damone, on his "five-point" plan
Fast Times At Ridgemont High is a 1982 Coming of Age / Slice of Life film written by Cameron Crowe and directed by Amy Heckerling. It follows the lives of a handful of high school students over the course of a school year, focusing mostly on Stacy Hamilton (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and her eventual boyfriend, Mark "Rat" Ratner (Brian Backer). The other main characters are Stacy's brother, Brad (Judge Reinhold); her best friend, Linda Barrett (Phoebe Cates); Rat's best friend, Mike Damone (Robert Romanus); Jeff Spicoli, a perpetual stoner in Stacy's history class (Sean Penn); and Mr. Arnold Hand, the history teacher who is frequently put upon by Spicoli's antics (Ray Walston).
This film demonstrates the following tropes:
- Adaptation Distillation: The film narrows its focus from the novel, dropping some peripheral characters completely, combining some (Damone and the ticket scalper character, for example) and simplifying some plot threads (Brad's journey down the fast-food prestige chain starts when he gets buffaloed into quitting his much-desired position at Carl's Jr., for instance, which was dropped from the film).
- Burger Fool: Brad works at two of these, with varying levels of horribleness. He is fired from the first due to an Unsatisfiable Customer and quits the second. There is another fast food joint which manages to be even worse; mostly mentioned only in dialogue, it is shown at the beginning of the film when one of its employees, Arnold, tries to operate a soda machine, only to have the soda splash back in his face.
- The Casanova: Damone sees himself this way, but we only actually see him with Stacy.
- Caught with Your Pants Down: Brad masturbates while daydreaming about Linda getting out of the pool and taking her top off. Unfortunately, the real Linda opens the door on him. He complains: "Doesn't anyone fucking knock anymore?"
- Characterization Marches On: After seeing him play deeply intense roles in Dead Man Walking and 21 Grams, it is something of a shock to see Sean Penn in such a lighthearted role.
- Funny enough, he was immersed in Enforced Method Acting even with this role back in the day; he refused to respond off-set when not referred to as Spicoli.
- The Cheerleader: Averted. The cheerleaders at Ridgemont are mocked openly at pep rallies due to the school's poor performance at athletic events.
- Composite Character: Damone's business as a ticket scalper was handled by a separate character in the novel.
- Dawson Casting: Phoebe Cates was 18 when she appeared in this film, and she was the youngest actor in the main cast.
- Dress Code
Stoners: "No shirt, no shoes, no dice! Ohhhh."
Brad Hamilton: "Right. Learn it. Know it. Live it."
- Ethical Slut: Linda
- Film of the Book: While many people think the film was original, it was actually based on a novel written by Crowe two years earlier, which was in turn based on a year he spent undercover as a student at Redondo Union High School in California, his way of making it up to himself for missing so much of his real high school years to do rock interviews
- Fridge Brilliance: Mike tells Rat to play side one of Led Zeppelin IV. Cut to the date with Stacy, wherein the song playing is "Kashmir"... from Physical Graffiti. Rat got so nervous about the date that he put in the wrong album.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: According to Amy Heckerling and Cameron Crowe's DVD commentary, the real reason for this was that due to a music licensing snag, the producers were unable to gain clearances to use any songs from Led Zeppelin IV.
- Hey, It's That Guy!: Good God, so many.
- Apart from the obvious (Phoebe Cates, Judge Reinhold, Jennifer Jason Leigh), Forrest Whitaker plays the gigantic black football player whose car Spicoli wrecks and who goes on to decimate the opposing football team.
- This movie has three that eventually won Best Actor Oscars (Whitaker, Sean Penn, and Nicolas Cage).
- Likely began Cameron Crowe's association with Eric Stoltz as his good luck charm with Stoltz playing one of Spicoli's stoner buds.
- High School Dance: The film features one of these at the end, with considerably few of the cornier aspects.
- I Am Spock: For a long time after the film was released, people frequently addressed Ray Walston as Mr. Hand. Walston was very grateful for this because up until that time, he felt that he was too closely associated with his prior role of Uncle Martin in My Favorite Martian.
- Make-Out Point: It's even called "the point".
- "Mister Sandman" Sequence: Time has turned the opening scenes of kids in the mall to the tune of "We Got The Beat" into one of these.
- Mood Whiplash: The scenes dealing with Stacy tend to invoke this trope.
- Never Trust a Trailer: The trailer makes Forest Whitaker's character out to be much bigger than it is.
- Pool Scene: leading to Erotic Dream, A Date with Rosie Palms, and Caught with Your Pants Down.
- The Precious Precious Car: Jefferson gets a slick sports car as a gift for returning to play football for Ridgemont. Spicoli takes it for a spin with Jefferson's little brother and trashes it, activating Jefferson's Berserk Button. Luckily he was able to frame their rival high school. Later, we see Jefferson leading the football team to a major lopsided victory and reversing the school's poor athletic performance in the process.
- The Red Stapler: Sales of Vans shoes increased following the release of the movie, where Jeff Spicoli wore his Vans black-and-white checkerboard slip-on shoes.
- Sex as Rite-Of-Passage: Stacy's story, leading to an aversion of Good Girls Avoid Abortion.
- Sensei for Scoundrels: Damone gives Rat plenty of sleazy advice on how to appear cool and pick up the girl he likes, then uses Rat's awkwardness to make himself look better in her eyes. Rat eventually calls him out on it and gets the girl.
- Sleeper Hit: Universal originally planned to only release the film in the Western part of the United States for a few weeks before sending it off to cable (regional releases were still common at this time) due to the belief that there was no audience for it. After an excellent response, the film went wide three weeks later with a big opening in the Eastern United States and had a long run in theaters.
- Spin-Off: The short lived CBS series "Fast Times".
- Stern Teacher: Mr. Hand is pretty unforgiving to his students, and especially Spicoli, who arguably deserves it. In the end he gives him a chance at redemption. Some of his comments lean towards Sadist Teacher territory but he seems to be a genuinely decent guy, just very strict.
- The novel says that "even some of the hardcore truants" respected his approach.
- The Stoner: Spicoli and his buddies.
- Surfer Dude: Spicoli, again.
- Tech Marches On: The burglar disables the gas station's security camera by spray-painting the lens as he walks in. In 1982, chances are there wasn't another camera in the store. Now, there'd almost certainly be several.
- Linda mentions that her neighborhood doesn't even have cable TV yet.
- Unintentional Period Piece
- Unlucky Everydude: Rat seems like this for most of the film, an awkward, shy dude with no idea how to get a girl's attention, and going to the worst person for advice. He wises up a bit.
- Waxing Lyrical: Mike is such a fan of Cheap Trick, he uses their lyrics to make passes at girls.
- What Could Have Been: The studio originally considered Nicolas Cage for the role of Brad, but after his audition, Amy Heckerling thought his performance was too dark and instead offered the role to Judge Reinhold. Additionally, Cage was 17 at the time, and thus he could not work as many hours as those for actors 18 and over. In addition, Fred Gwynne was originally offered the role of Mr. Hand, but he turned it down because he felt that the sex scenes involving Jennifer Jason Leigh were too objectionable.
- Where Are They Now? Epilogue