Ultimate Party Collection: Fast Times At Ridgemont High/Dazed and Confused

Directed by Amy Heckerling/Richard Linklater

> > Nov 2004

Ultimate Party Collection: Fast Times At Ridgemont High/Dazed and Confused - Directed by Amy Heckerling/Richard Linklater
By James KeastPackaged together for their seeming similarities, what's ironic about the teaming of Fast Times At Ridgemont High and Dazed and Confused is that they really couldn't be more different in tone and intent while still featuring high school stoners as main characters. One was made as a glimpse into the horrors of high school life and based on a novel written by a guy in his early 20s who went back to high school to do the research; the other is a soundtrack-driven nostalgia piece made 20 years after the era in question, and tweaks every cliché response one has to the period. First to Fast Times, based on the novel by then-teenage Rolling Stone journalist Cameron Crowe, who's gone on to become an excellent director in his own right. Despite being primarily known for an eerily method performance by Sean Penn as Jeff Spicoli — and featuring endlessly quotable Spicoli lines that survive to this day — Fast Times is both a comedy and a cautionary tale about growing up too quickly. Its awkward, burgeoning sexuality and social negotiation still ring true because it was true — Amy Heckerling directs sex scenes and high school rituals in all their cringe-inducing glory, which is a primary reason why the film has endured. Fast Times, which was made in 1982, got made just before a wave of Reagan conservatism would have crushed a film about a 15-year-old girl (played by not 15 Jennifer Jason Leigh) who's naked, gets pregnant and has an abortion in the context of a teen "comedy." It's famous now for playing "spot the famous actor": Nicolas Cage (credited as Coppola), Eric Stolz and Anthony Edwards are but a few. The same can be done with Dazed and Confused, the first mainstream film from Slacker director Richard Linklater, which features Ben Affleck, Matthew McConaughey, Parker Posey and Milla Jovovich in its cast. But in direct contrast to Fast Times — where the "times" are indeed too fast and its participants are unsure how to deal — Dazed and Confused is an exercise in pure Sabbath-scored nostalgia. Made in 1992, it chronicles Linklater's youth in Austin, Texas as seen through a cloud of pot smoke. Dazed and Confused is a straight-up party movie, all beer, bongs and… not boobies. The almost total lack of sexual content — in a movie rife with drug and alcohol references, including a young boy just out of junior high casually buying a six-pack — is definitely a product of its prudish era. Confused is good times, of that there can be no doubt, but Fast Times is the real deal. Even in the extras, Confused gets trumped: it's got a handful of deleted scenes and some kind of funny "nostalgic" anti-drug and littering spots, but Fast Times is a goldmine, particularly the commentary between director Heckerling and writer Crowe, where we learn that Sean Penn got seriously method throughout the film (even his answering machine at home said "this is Jeff Spicoli"), and that David Lynch was originally offered the director's chair. ("Good script, not really my kind of material" was reportedly his response.) No "where are they now?" featurettes are necessary: Fast Times' cast has gone on to Oscars and critical acclaim, while one Dazed and Confused alum destroyed his career by becoming the most annoying celebrity on the planet. No contest. (Universal)
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