Making the Grades
There are few things more frustrating than watching a half-good movie concept wasted as it wallows around in unnecessary stereotypes, rehashed scenarios and crude sexual humor. Unfortunately that is just what this film does.
At its most thoughtful level, I Love You, Beth Cooper is about taking chances and trying to live life without too many regrets. It is also about being able to define oneself beyond that narrow list of acceptable teen cliques and scrutinizing the kind of pedestals you put others on. With a little bit of concerted effort, all of these themes could have been developed into an interesting storyline for teens.
Instead we get Denis Cooverman (Paul Rust), a nerdy scholastic, who earns the honor of being valedictorian at his commencement exercises. With prodding from his best friend Rich Munsch (Jack Carpenter), he digresses from the usual "chase your dream" speech and substitutes a challenge to his classmates to come clean about their hidden secrets like eating disorders, physical abuse and sexual preferences. He "comes out" by publically broadcasting his secret crush on head cheerleader Beth Cooper (Hayden Panettiere).
The unorthodox address leaves the students and faculty shifting uncomfortably in their hard plastic chairs—especially Beth and her prone-to-violence boyfriend (Shawn Roberts). But that night, Beth and her girlfriends (Lauren London, Lauren Storm) show up at the Cooverman house for Denis’s grad gathering. After Beth’s boyfriend and his military buddies drop by and trash the place, Denis, Rich and the three girls head out for a long night of party hopping, disorderly conduct and unruly carousing.
Like so many other teen flicks, this one portrays the very worst of adolecent behavior—drug consumption, drinking and driving, and using sexual favors as a means to an end. The script is full of erection jokes, profanities and a locker room scene that includes partial female nudity. Much of the plot centers on Rich who is constantly pressured about being homosexual. When he fails to "perform" with two young females after a long sleepless night of partying, the question about his sexual preference seems to be answered.
As well, the film portrays delinquent parents who ignore their children, abuse them or encourage them to have premarital sex to commemorate their completion of secondary school. (At least Denis’s father provides a large package of contraceptive devices for his son.) Other adults are either absent, cuddling up with teenaged girls or engaging in their own sexual activities.
Besides being laden with content most parents would prefer to have their teens avoid, this film also suffers from lackluster acting and awkward composition that makes it difficult for the audience to engage with these characters. (Even the teens at the screening I attended lost interest and were busy talking long before the movie ended.) Despite the potential in this script, there ends up being very little to love about Beth Cooper or any of the other teens at this graduation celebration.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about I Love You, Beth Cooper.
How do depictions in films like this one impact the way teens are viewed by older people? How do they affect the way they see themselves? How accurate are these portrayals?
Why does high school appear to be the highlight of some people’s lives? Why is it necessary for some students to redefine themselves after graduation?