I Love You, Beth Cooper (2009)

My opinion is that it’s difficult to make an unenjoyable film in the “end of high school one crazy night” subgenre, assuming a good faith effort. It’s just so damn cinematic: You’ll never see most of these people again; you’re in the process of defining yourself; first loves and farewells and last chances; lots of partying… the whole shebang. Add in a few solid soundtrack bops and you’ve got a pretty high floor in terms of watchability.

For example, take Can’t Hardly Wait, a movie that probably has a screenplay, but one from which I can’t remember a single line. And yet, I still unironically love that movie! It’s a damn hoot!

And so it is with some sadness that I share that I Love You, Beth Cooper is pretty close to a low point of this kind of movie. Portions of this film are actively unpleasant, barely functional, with a screenplay that often sounds AI-generated. It has a thoroughly entrenched male gaze and is grotesquely cruel with slapstick. The opening act is truly tough to get through.

Everything you ever heard stereotyped about these kinds of movies? It’s here. An unpleasant geek pining from afar treated as romantic, not stalker behavior? Lots of objectification of young women? Characters behaving as basic types? Inane jokes in desperate search of an actual punchline? A popular girl unexpectedly making time for a total goober who’s a stalker? Yep, it’s all here.

The weird thing is that I Love You, Beth Cooper pivots pretty hard in its second half towards watchable. You can pin the inflection point on a specific scene: a car-ride singalong to “School’s Out” by Alice Cooper. This only reinforces my belief that a good scene of people singing along to a radio is a Midas touch for any hangout movie.

The whole thing would be totally dead in the water if the cast was a flop. But, amazingly, Paul Rust and Hayden Panettiere have incendiary chemistry together in spite of the weird clash of their characters. And the rest of the cast keeps up pretty well, especially Jack Carpenter as the best friend, who is stuck in a semi-sweet but thoroughly 2000s subplot of being “in the closet.”

So, yeah, it’s a movie that’s half-baked at best. The movie simultaneously humiliates protagonist Denis and gives him a generous ending; deconstructs the “dream girl” myth and still makes her an accessible sex kitten; indulges in gross-out humor and tries to employ earnest romance. It’s a clusterfuck of a film… that I smiled a lot at.

I guess the conclusion I’m building towards here is the thought that, in spite of the objective crappiness of this movie, I actually had a pretty good time and would consider watching it again.

Is It Good?

Not Very Good (3/8)

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