That’s all, folks! Last night, the 2015 Los Angeles Film Festival came to a close after eight days of movies, panels and parties in downtown LA. After screening all of the Festival award winners yesterday evening, the Fest went out with a bang, staging a Closing Night Live Read for the first time in Festival history.
“We decided we were going to be the change we were looking for,” Festival Director Stephanie Allain said before the closing night show, “and guess what, LA? We did it!” She thanked her dedicated team of programmers, who curated a lineup that exemplified diversity and uniqueness of vision in independent filmmaking, as well as “a sweet spot for LA.”
Which makes Fast Times at Ridgemont High the perfect Live Read with which to say goodbye. As Film Independent Curator Elvis Mitchell said in his introduction, director Amy Heckerling’s 1982 film observes “the ways and mores of the elusive Valley teenager.” Cameron Crowe’s screenplay was based on his experience going undercover as a high school student in the late 1970s (he was 22 at the time). Mitchell praised Fast Times as “the first [teen] film that didn’t condescend to modern teenagers” and, with that, introduced his good friend Eli Roth, the director of the Live Read.
“Someone told me an interesting theory,” Roth said before introducing his cast for Fast Times—one of his all-time favorite movies. “They said that movies today are basically fan fiction, and the movies that do well are the ones that take a world we all know and say, ‘what if this happened?’ There is a type of movie that used to happen, and that is a character movie. Fast Times was sold as a comedy, but it is a drama—a very, very, very funny-as-fuck drama. It is pure acting and character.”
The cast of the Live Read of Fast Times at Ridgemont High was:
Haley Joel Osment as Brad Hamilton, the role originated by Judge Reinhold
Lily Collins as Stacy Hamilton, the role originated by Jennifer Jason Leigh
Lorenza Izzo as Linda Barrett, the role originated by Phoebe Cates
Kumail Nanjiani as Mike Damone, the role originated by Robert Romanus
Daryl Sabara as Mark Ratner, the role originated by Brian Backer
Courtney Love as Mr. Hand, the role originated by Ray Walston
Logan Paul as Jeff Spicoli, the role originated by Sean Penn
Nik Keswani as Curtis Spicoli, the role originated by Patrick Brennan
Aaron Burns as Charles Jefferson, the role originated by Forest Whitaker
The Live Read used Crowe’s first draft, dated September 1981, and we heard some bits that didn’t make the final product, and some familiar parts weren’t in there yet—but the bones of the iconic script were the same. The actors brought great energy; Paul was hilarious in Sean Penn’s beloved role (and dressed for the part), and Collins and Izzo in particular had great chemistry as best friends Stacy and Linda. Izzo actually brought carrot sticks that she and Collins used as props during their phallic-carrots-for-lunch scene, and in a bizarre and unexpected surprise, Judge Reinhold sent a short video of himself saying “I’ll be watching” that played after the infamous pool scene.
After the show, of course, there was one last Festival party. Filmmakers, festivalgoers and the Live Read cast danced the night away and said goodbye to another wonderful Fest. Until next year!
Mary Sollosi / Film Independent Blogger