Day Fourteen: Fast Times at Ridgemont High (MotM 2018)

fast times

(Recommended by my mother. Seriously.)

Oh, look. Another example of a “classic.” A “classic” being an entertainment form that is beloved by many for… being memorable, I guess. Note that I am being cynical by regarding it as a “classic” instead of a classic. Ghostbusters was also a “classic,” but at least for that film I gave it a passing grade. No dice for the kids at Ridgemont.

That said, I think I understand why my mother of all people who recommend me this type of film. My mother is still only barely middle-age at forty-four, so by the time this film came out, she was about nine years old. She spent most of her conscious childhood in the ’80s, so anything within that vibe of relatively goofy high school comedies is sure to appeal to her (she also adores The Breakfast Club). Still… the fact that my mother would recommend me something so frivolous with sex and drugs is kind of strange. Of all the films I’ve watched so far this month, this had the most scenes featuring topless/naked women. Thanks, Mom!

I, however, grew up in the new millennium for most of my conscious childhood, so the ’80s appeal is completely lost on me. The nature of expected truancy, teachers being blatant assholes to students, the mystique of “The Mall”; I don’t really care. By comparison, my environment was fairly uptight and down-to-earth. Fun, teenage experimentation mixed with safety regulations and anti-discrimination laws (and student-teacher affairs, but let’s not go there).

One can look up reviews for this film and they’ll find that a lot of the praise for it is in the atmosphere, in the memorability of individual scenes, in the characters’ kooky antics. Y’know what else is pretty memorable? The Human Centipede. It doesn’t always correlate with quality. People all seem to think Sean Penn made this film, which is hilarious because he’s one of the least interesting characters in the entire film. He says some goofy things and is, like, totally gnarly, dude, but what of it? Parody, perhaps? It’s the only thing that would make any sense.

So I started seeing this film about halfway through as a parody feature. It makes fun of kids who want more out of life by making them experiment to absurd degrees. It also makes them horny sex machines who will go out with someone just to fuck them. This “loser” kid, who is shown to be a nice, innocent boy, goes up to a pretty, but slutty girl who works on the cool side of “The Mall” or something, and instead of being completely shot down, like I expected he would, she accepts and eventually tries to initiate the sex herself, only to have the boy chicken out before it happens. Ha, a reversal of gender stereotypes, I guess? To some extent, I feel the script is intentionally making things happen just to showcase the awkwardness of teenagehood and to dispel various stereotypes, but I ask again: what of it?

A post I wrote some weeks ago, where I take back my previously-held stance on “objectivity in critique,” I explained in some detail the proponent of “substance” in the things I hold worthwhile of indulging in. Fast Times, put simply, has no substance; what is it that I’m getting from this film? What is it trying to tell me, if anything? Why do I care? What is the “point”? The plot is pretty loose and the characters, outside of some irony through preconceived expectations, are pretty basic. They aren’t so much bad as they are artificial. They’re being used for something; what that is, I’m not completely sure. This lack of substance could be looked over if there were any sort of enjoyable execution on its part. Unfortunately, there isn’t much there, either.

I liked some of the characters. I cared enough to empathize with their situations and issues. I liked how the film didn’t preemptively give them happy endings for the sake of maintaining a grander mood. But for an hour and a half of not laughing at any jokes, not smiling at any interaction, nor nodding in appreciation of some insightful teenage angst, all I can do is shrug. Mimicking the honest vulgarity of the film, I really don’t give a fuck.

I’m also going to post this review from Letterboxd, as I feel it touches on the flaws on the film much better than I would. Give it a read.

Final Score: 4/10

The rating for all other films can be found at Letterboxd.

For more, check out the March of the Movies Archive!

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