Two weeks later and this is no longer a wrist problem, but my whole right arm and shoulder. The dictated reviews shall continue on.
I would never survive at an American high school. Hell there aren’t that many Americans and that leave it fully intact. However, it still remains a source of inspiration for an inordinate number of films. Very few of them that make it to lists such as this go into the bad sides and instead mine it for comedic value (probably because teenagers would not pay to see and a film about high school that makes them depressed).
Fast Times At Ridgemont High stands alongside The Breakfast Club, Clueless and Grease on the 1001 movie list as part of the high school movie genre. In all fairness this movie is the weakest of the four.
When you look at the cast list you will spot a lot of future stars. At the time some of them would have been kinda recognized whilst others appeared in this as a first credit. Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Forrest Whitaker, Judge Reinhold and Nicolas Cage all appear in this film. Granted Nicolas Cage has no lines and is credited as Nicholas Coppola, but this was his first ever appearance onscreen.
I guess that the problem with this film is that it is messy. Very messy. Don’t get me wrong there are some really recognisable sequences and some great music, but it never get it together in the way that Mean Girls or a John Hughes film would. I think I am not alone in saying that the highlights of the film take place in history class when the teacher Mr. Hand comes up against Sean Penn’s stoner character. As a teacher these moments were delicious but I know I would have enjoyed these as much otherwise.
I think this is the issue. When you have people with naturally good comic timing this film was a breeze. However, I’m not sure that most of them or the director did. Amy Heckerling would later find this when she directed Clueless, but we’re talking 13 years old professional development later.
Personally, I know that comedies like this do not always do it for me. I mean maybe I would have liked it 10 years ago, but not now. Maybe this is because my sense of humour is more Comedy Bang Bang and Hollywood Handbook rather than high school. Anyway it’s good to finally have a comedy again.
So it turns out that I managed to make a connection between Fast Times At Ridgemont High and Mean Streets. They are united by a pair of acting brothers (the Romanus brothers) both of whom play characters called Mike in their respective films. It’s a bit of a weird one, but I love it when films that feel rather disparate can be linked in such a strange way.
I’m going to start with the admission that I am not the biggest fan of Raging Bull. I think that considering where this write up is headed that is a point I need to make. I do consider The King of Comedy as one of my favourite films and really liked Goodfellas though.
I feel like having to defend myself when I say that I didn’t particularly enjoy Mean Streets. Maybe enjoy is the wrong word, but I think saying that I didn’t appreciate it would be going too far in the other direction. The point is: I don’t see what the fuss is about with “mean streets”.
What I can admire this film for is how it was the prototype for what came next in Martin Scorsese’s career. It is quite rough around the edges, which is why I think I did not get it as much as contemporary critics would have. I have been blessed to see what came later. Therefore if this is an essential stepping stone to Goodfellas then I’m all in.
I guess the problem that I had was that I didn’t quite understand that the “language” associated with these types of gangsters. I haven’t seen that many mafia films to fully appreciate what the relationships are between certain people. For example, the Robert Deniro character is an utter waste of space. From the word go you know he is trouble and he will drag than anyone who’s associated with him. So to have Harvey Keitel’s character bend over backwards to help him is beyond me. It’s not even that they are friends, more like an older brother stopping a younger brother from being murdered for being a dick. After watching the film I red up about this topic and got a greater understanding. But I should not have to do that.
To be perfectly honest apart from the great acting performances I was bored. Those 2 hours just dragged to the point that it felt longer than La Belle Noiseuse. It is strange how that can happen.