Entries run chronologically from bottom to top.
In high school, everything is dead serious, and everything’s a joke. Your mind groans under the weight of classes and crushes. You exchange notes. You wonder who to sit beside in first period. As this bountiful comedy whirls around its loose ensemble, it absorbs every one of those ridiculous details. It soaks in graffiti, band logos, and pin-up posters. Some of its tacky minutiae blossom into visual gags: Judge Reinhold serving seafood while wearing a huge pirate hat; Sean Penn as a blithe stoner stumbling out of a hotboxed VW bus; or a student cheating on a test with notes scrawled on her upper thigh. These images are slightly cartoonish, yet still emotionally credible. They’re preposterous enough to feel true.
When the film works blue, with bits about blow jobs and masturbation, it does so with clear affection for its naïve characters. After a boy’s lightning-fast orgasm makes Jennifer Jason Leigh droop in disappointment, the camera stays right on her face. She sits halfway up, still nude, mouth agape, and watches him put on his pants. (You can see Leigh’s venomous career taking shape.) The scene throbs with sympathy. It’s a mercy when the next cut reveals Leigh slicing sausage in a pizzeria as she gossips with her best friend. Their banter’s written with a sexual frankness that prefigures and outdoes Kevin Smith’s whole filmography. Their solidarity takes the sting out of adolescence’s self-inflicted humiliations.