Published Jul 09, 2009The peculiar thing about I Love You, Beth Cooper is that it manages to be both better and worse than expected, offering up some truly inspired and dreadful moments, leaving an exceedingly off-putting, but intriguing, aftertaste. Strangely enough, it genuinely seems like the sort of hybrid that a writer of The Simpsons and Beavis and Butt-Head would create with the director of Stepmom and Mrs. Doubtfire. It's crass and chaotic but humanistic and touching. And it's ridiculous in all senses of the word.
Based on Larry Doyle's quirky short story of the same name, Beth Cooper tackles what might happen if the nerdy, reclusive valedictorian — in this case, Denis Cooverman (Paul Rust) — decided to proclaim his love for the popular high school cheerleader (titular hottie Hayden Panettiere) during his graduation speech.
Understandably, some liberties are taken with plausibility, as Ms. Cooper and her cronies (Lauren Storm, Lauren London) show up at Denis's house for a post-graduation "pop and chip" shindig, assumingly to find amusement in the dork and his seemingly gay best friend (Jack Carpenter). As this is a teen movie, Beth's coked out boyfriend (Shawn Roberts) shows up to kick the shit out of Denis, just because, causing the geeks and the girls to go on a crazed road trip of illegalities.
People are hit by cars, attacked by cattle and severely beaten, when not stealing vehicles, making out with strangers for beer or driving hummers through bay windows. What's distinctive here, however, is that Columbus downplays these wacky shenanigans in favour of dramatic moments wherein Denis learns that his illusion of Beth is nothing like her actuality. She's a reckless, depressive, self-hating fuck-up, which is what gives the film its simultaneous strength and strain in credulity, as her heightened self-awareness is undoubtedly that of male fantasy.
Beneath its glossy teen comedy trappings, Beth Cooper is essentially a film about the world of identity as performance, and the inherent fragility people leave hidden beneath the surface. It's hard to take in, at times, but isn't entirely without its charms. (Fox)