Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Can't Hardly Wait (1998)

Every decade has a few teen movies that stand out. The 80s had The Breakfast Club, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Pretty in Pink, and Sixteen Candles. The 90s had American Pie, Can't Hardly Wait, Clueless, and 10 Things I Hate About You.1 When I was in high school, Can't Hardly Wait was probably one of the most quoted of the teen films, particularly of the foreign exchange student.2 The movie follows an after-graduation party where Ethan Embry hopes to confess his love to Jennifer Love Hewitt. The movie also weaves in a good number of stories throughout which leads to a nonstop set of "Hey it's [insert name of now mildly famous person]!"

This movie works for many reasons. It manages to weave a large number of stories together, but never so many that we lose track of the main story. The fact that virtually the entire movie takes place in one night helps to keep the stories manageable. One of the most enjoyable parts of this movie, now that I've left high school behind me for quite some time, is the fickle nature of a lot of the drama that takes place in the movie. Relationships3 begin and end throughout the night. The strength of these relationships is only possible out of the youth of high school students.

Like Breakfast Club, Can't Hardly Wait seeks to use all the different high school clicks to flesh out its story. The relationship between these clicks is largely used to comic effect. Ethan Embry's character occupies a clique-less sect, but his crush is on the popular girl. Somehow by the end of the movie she realizes that he's who she should have loved all along, though it's too late now. Other battles exist between the nerds and the jocks. The pot heads are just along for the ride.

Watching this movie again, I still enjoy it, but I think it held a lot more water for me when I was still in high school. Those things that seemed important and plausible then seem far less so at this point in my life. But since this was one of my high school movies it will stick with me for a long time.

Stoner #1 [Brian Klugman]: Preston? I dunno, his hair's kinda, I dunno, brown?
Stoner #2 [Jason Segel]:
No, it's not really brown. Oh, he's tall.
Stoner #1: Yeah, he's kinda kinda tall. Sorta tall. And he's like always wearing like t-shirts.
Amanda: So, he's sort of tall?
Stoner #1: Kinda.
Amanda: With... hair?
Stoner #1: Yeah.
Amanda: And he wears t-shirts sometimes?
Stoner #1: Yeah.
Amanda: That's it?
Stoner #1: Well, I mean, he's Preston. Preston, you know?
Stoner #2: Preston, I like that guy.


Notes::
1. I suppose for the 00s we have Mean Girls, John Tucker Must Die and *shudder* the High School Musical series.
2. "Would you like to touch my penis?" Of course, it makes little sense that a person could study in the US for an entire year and not have learned enough English to know what he was being asked to say.
3. Romantic, sexual, and platonic.

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