One of the best films about teenagers ever made, “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” was based on screenwriter Cameron Crowe’s real-life attempt to go back to high school undercover and write about what high school life was really like. The results are very funny, though they’re also sometimes extremely painful and awkward. Director Heckerling was especially sensitive in viewing how these kids were experiencing life. The characters are young, but they also face many things we tend to regard as adult issues (i.e. employment issues, unplanned pregnancies). I don’t know if things these days are better or worse for teenagers … especially given how nasty things have gotten with bullying, the internet, etc., but also with helicopter parenting being accepted as normal.
This scene between Sean Penn’s stoner character and Ray Walston’s teacher is a comedy classic. Walston’s character may be a “dick,” but he also deals with Penn’s character in a very calm, non-hysterical way … that’s also funny as hell. Seriously, what would YOU do, if you had Penn’s character as a student? I think it speaks volumes for Heckerling’s and Crowe’s instincts to have them at least come to a meeting of the minds at the end of the film. They’ll never be buddies, but you get the sense that there is a mutual respect there.