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The West Wing
A nerdy valedictorian proclaims his love for the hottest and most popular girl in school – Beth Cooper (Panettiere) – during his graduation speech. Much to his surprise, Beth shows up at his door that very night and decides to show him the best night of his life.
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Jumping on the success of the coming of age teenage romp comedies, I Love You Beth Cooper comes to the big screen, albeit with almost no buzz at all. From a screenplay written from a best selling novel and directed by a very successful filmmaker in Chris Columbus (Home Alone movies, first two Harry Potter films), the studios apparantely have no faith in I Love You Beth Cooper. And why is this?
10 minutes into the film that questioned was answered. The movie runs a bit flat as there really never was an overall tone established. When you sit and watch this film nothing jumps out to get your emotions flowing. Not a funny character, moment or a joke that makes us laugh and settles us into our seat comfortably. Not a very awkward situation that makes us squirm and feel for the character(s). Not even a universal moment that most of us and relate with. I Love You Beth Cooper isn't a bad film as its intentions are pure and they were really trying to make a great film, but when they put it all together in the end things just don't add up to make this the magical coming of age film that they intended to make.
I love this concept where a nerdy kid spills his true thoughts and feelings finally while he gives his valedictorian speech. And the main personal insight he spits out is his love for Beth Cooper. The attractive girl that he's been sitting behind in class for 5 years. He doesn't really know who Beth Cooper is because he's never talked to her before, but he has an idealized version of who she is.
Boys and men always have problems with idealizing a woman. And I'm not being general. ALL MEN fall for a woman because he imagines her to be someone he wants them to be. And those expectations can never be delivered if/when they finally speak to the woman and get to know her. I Love You Beth Cooper is about this male problem. And this is the perfect situation to tell this tale of male discovery: In a teenage comedy where boys dip into manhood and girls dip in womanhood. So why didn't this film work?
Was it the actors? Yes and no. All of the main performers do a solid acting job in I Love You Beth Cooper. But there really isn't an actor who jumps out on the screen. Think of past teenager movies and the ones that you remember are the ones with that actor or actors who just have that magical ability on screen to evoke their emotions and make us care for them a great deal. I Love You Beth Cooper is a forgotten film because none of these actors unfortunately will be true stars. Some of us are Mozarts but most of us are just Salieri's. These are just the cold hard facts. So if you make a teenage movie, find that actor who is a Mozart.
Could it of been the script? Yes and no. The script is a fine peace of writing and it's a no brainer why they greenlit this film. BUT, the supporting characters really don't have much to do in I Love You Beth Cooper and if you watch these films it's always those supporting characters that make these films. While the main characters have the true emotional arcs and climatic moments, it's their friends and/or enemies that give us the comedic and emotional moments scene to scene. Think back to even recent teenage coming of age films. In Superbad it's the character of McLovin and the two cops that are the memorable characters eventhough they aren't the main characters. Take a look to all of the successful John Hughes films too in the 1980s. Always the supporting characters that you think about first.
On paper this is the story of how two people who live in different worlds learn from each other. The nerd is the one who plays by the rules while the cheerleader is the risk taker and one who's truly living life. At graduation, the cheerleader thinks it's the end of her life as high school was the best. While the nerd thinks it's the beginning of his life as high school was educational but a very long and hard road. Two extremes meet in the middle and they become better people. That's the journey of I Love You Beth Cooper. And that's a fine journey. But it's what's in the middle that counts. And I Love You Beth Cooper doesn't have much of a middle.