Saturday, September 05, 2009

I Love You, Beth Cooper

One Crazy Party

Thumb through a video store catalog, and there are a dime a dozen of many teen comedies out there that you'll be hard pressed to find something that either didn't deal with hard partying, road trips, one crazy night of post-graduation party, self-discovery, friendship and the likes. In fact, I Love You, Beth Cooper, has almost all those cliché moments filled with stereotypical characters, but under the direction of Chris Columbus, this story by Larry Doyle actually came across in quite enjoyable terms, thanks to what I thought made the movie – a line that was uttered upon stark realization, and the fear as expressed by the titular character, which made it quite distinct and standing out amongst the competition.

But first, the crazy premise that became the catalyst of everything laid out in the film. Imagine if you're nursing a huge crush on the school flower and have absolutely no guts to go introduce yourself to her. On what's effectively the last day of school, as valedictorian, you seize the opportunity to express your feelings toward her, as suggested by your best friend, lest you allow not doing so become the largest regret of your life. You buy the idea, and declare your love (yes, even if you have no iota of that person's character at all) to her in front of the entire school and witnessed by teachers, peers and parents, while at the same time, insulting your enemies. So on one hand, you crafted some mindshare into the object of your desire, and on the other, you've made a slew of enemies ever ready to bay for your blood.

So it becomes one crazy night for Denis Cooverman (Paul Rust) and his best friend Rich (Jack Carpenter) who has to battle his school reputation of being gay, while getting acquainted with Beth (Hayden Panettiere) and her posse Cammy (Lauren London) and Treece (Lauren Storm) when they turn up for his un-happening graduation party, before proceeding to show him and Rich what could possibly be the wildest night of their lives, especially for the nerds. It might seem like the usual revenge of the nerds styled comedy with its set pieces, but it is not about getting the girl and riding into the sunset, or about getting laid as most teen comedies seem to be obsessed with these days. In fact, it's more about surviving through the night, given the determined pursuit of a psychotic, buffed up boyfriend (Shawn Roberts) high on drugs, while getting to know one another.

While Larry Doyle had fueled the story with plenty of stereotypes, such as the rich proud bitch, the lead cheerleader who's all sugar and spice, the military-jock boyfriend of hers, the nerds, the bimbo posse etc, what he managed to do as the film progressed, is to smash those stereotypes away, well most of them anyway. What was ace in the film, were the key characters who you'd probably identify with amongst yourself or your peers. Paul Rust brought out the everyday average brainy teenager without being too whiny or irritate the heck out of you, and you'd find yourself rooting for him despite the many loser-type situations his Denis got himself into. Panettiere would be familiar to fans of TV series Heroes, and her cheerleader is sans powers except that her Beth drives her car like a maniac and managed to stay alive at such throwaway recklessness. And the character which I thought was the icing on the cake, was Jack Carpenter's Rich as the movie buff spouting and enacting countless of movie dialogue and references, while reliving a classic movie moment from Robin Hood.

But all those aside in a story that unravelled itself in one night. Two aspects of the film made it a winner for me. The first was when Denis uttered "You're not Beth Cooper". That hit like a sledgehammer because it represented so succinctly the kind of affection that Denis had for his crush - based on a very superficial exterior, without any inkling of who the person exactly is, which of course sets up plenty of pitfalls as that exterior got stripped away every moment he spent those crazy times with her. That perfect being sprung from his unilateral imagination is far, very far from the real thing.

The second is when Beth expressed her fear of the unknown, which is something that really brought out the sincerity of the character. Her shenanigans for the entire night got addressed, and did allow Beth to be a tragic character of sorts, knowing her place in this materialistic, pragmatic world where her "talent" or lack thereof, sent shivers down her spine knowing that her crazy-cool persona could no longer hold water once outside the confines of the high school community.

These are precisely the moments that sold, and I was indeed surprised since what I was in for, was one of those mediocre run off the mill teen movies. Larry Doyle's story had a lot more undercurrents going for it than many would have liked to believe, and Chris Columbus, through a no-frills style, had delivered just that, allowing one to find balance in being entertained, as well as having some takeaways for further mulling over.

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