There’s no denying the fact that Fast Times at Ridgemont
High is a classic. The sheer talent in
front of and behind the camera is incredible and, in my eyes, has yet to be
matched by any other film of its kind since.
But if I had to choose the strongest link in the picture, it would have
to be the great Brad Hamilton, the rare geek/jock.
The film was released back in 1982, starring relative
unknowns Sean Penn, Forest Whitaker, Phoebe Cates, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Eric
Stoltz, Anthony Edwards and Nicolas Cage.
And let’s not forget that My Favorite Martian himself, Ray Walston
played the most iconic teacher in history, Mr. Hand. The film was directed by Amy Heckerling, who
would go on to direct Look Who’s Talking and Clueless, (another seminal
film about growing up in high school) and written by Cameron Crowe, who adapted
his own book, long before we knew him as the writer/director of such films as Say
Anything…, Singles, Jerry Maguire, Almost Famous and Vanilla Sky.
I’m always amazed by the fact that Fast Times was never
given a sequel. If any film deserved
such a treatment, it was this one. The
characters are so memorable that I would have loved to have seen them cope with
college life; although, I’m sure it would have veered dangerously close to Animal
House territory. Simply put, high
school is a fucked up world and Fast Times stresses that fact
Most of the accolades can be attributed to the incredible
cast and the eclectic and quirky characters they portray. But the true backbone of Fast Times is the
aforementioned Brad Hamilton, played by the great Judge Reinhold.
Fast Times is a film populated with jocks, geeks, sluts
and potheads. But Hamilton is a
different animal all together. He is the
rare geek/jock; the type of guy that by all accounts should be made fun of for
being so incredibly out of the loop, but miraculously finds himself with a hot
girlfriend, a great car, plenty of friends and an amazing job at All-American
Burger. Of course, he loses almost all
of those things by the film’s end, but his character becomes stronger as a
result of it.
While many would choose Penn’s Jeff Spicoli as the most
memorable character of the film (a fact that I would not argue, but don’t completely
agree with), it’s Hamilton that we follow from being a naïve high schooler to
an enraged convenience store clerk. He’s
the one who is given the strongest character arc and the guy we eventually root
for. And at the risk of sounding juvenile,
it’s because of Hamilton that we have one of the greatest nudie shots involving
Phoebe Cates in motion picture history.
I find myself quoting most of Hamilton’s lines on a regular
basis (“I hope you had a hell of a piss, Harold!”, “Get off my case
motherfucker!”, “Mister, if you don’t shut up I’m going to kick one hundred
percent of your ass!”) and laugh hysterically at the thought of him driving his
blue 1960 Buick LeSabre while dressed as a pirate. He reminds me of so many of my friends that
it’s almost shocking, which is probably why I find his character to be the most
While we all wish we knew somebody like Jeff Spicoli in high
school, we all knew someone like Brad Hamilton, the dork that for one reason or
another was actually pretty cool. It was
because of guys like him that high school was somewhat tolerable.