FasttimesEvery so often a film comes along which seems to launch most of the cast into various levels of stardom.  1982’s Fast Times at Ridgemont High is one of those movies.

Amy Heckerling directed Cameron Crowe’s script of life in a California high school.  While Sean Penn may have been the breakout star of the movie for his stoner Spicoli, he was hardly the only actor to make a mark with it.  Judge Reinhold, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Phoebe Cates all saw their profiles rise due to this film.

Nicolas Cage, Eric Stoltz, Anthony Edwards and Forrest Whitaker, though in minor roles, also appear in the movie.  Others in the cast included Tony Award winners Ray Walston and Brian Backer, Robert Romanus, Scott Thomson, Vincent Schiavelli, Amanda Wyss, D. W. Brown, Taylor Negron and Nancy Wilson (Mrs. Cameron Crowe).

Episodic in nature, this film celebrates and commiserates the challenges of life in high school. It examines classes, dating, and bad jobs.

Back to School Cinema: CLUELESS

cluelessJane Austen meets 1990s Beverly Hills in Clueless – Amy Heckerling’s take on the classic tale of matchmaking gone awry before a happy ending.

This 1995 movie starred Alicia Silverstone and Stacey Dash as the benevolent rulers of a Beverly Hills high school.  With snappy, smart dialogue it is reminiscent of screwball comedies of the 1930s.  Unlike some films of the same genre (and many of its imitators), it relies heavily on scenes at school and involves the students interacting with teachers.

Brittany Murphy plays the newcomer whose arrival sets many plans in motion while Elisa Donovan, Donald Faison, Jeremy Sisto, Breckin Meyer, and Justin Walker play fellow students. Paul Rudd’s performance as the older ex-step-brother of Silverstone helps anchor the film.  (He also keeps the ick factor from creeping in at the ending of the movie based on the character who becomes the object of his affection).  Julie Brown, Wallace Shawn and Twink Caplan bring hilarity and heart to their roles as teachers.

As with Beverly Hills itself, this movie has a distinctive look.  The costumes by Mona May are exaggerated without becoming parodies.  Interesting, this movie is heavily dominated by females behind the camera.  It was written and directed by Heckerling.  Casting and editing were both led by women as well as two of the assistant directors and one of the film’s producers.

Appreciation or even familiarity with Austen is not necessary to enjoy this film.  It is literate, witty, smart, and fun.