There’s a few quintessential 90’s teen movies, Clueless, American Pie and 10 Things I Hate About You are entries that have lived into infinity, defining the genre for the generation. There’s one film, which was quite dear for those of us late 1980s and early 1990s kids, which hasn’t quite held the same name recognition as some of the others, despite packing not only the best casts ever to grace a teen movie. Cant Hardly Wait (1998) stands as one of the unsung, under appreciated teen movies of the 1990s (and it quite the Hollywood time capsule).
Can’t Hardly Wait follows a group of high school seniors on the night after graduation. Each of our characters end up at a wild party, where we watch not only the character dynamics between them, but witness each struggling with their own insecurity in the face of this moment of life change. Some have it more under control than others, but it’s fascinating to watch this diverse group interact in this one common moment where they’re all on the same level.
The film is a veritable who’s who, featuring a very young Jennifer Love Hewitt in a lead role. Keep your eyes open for Peter Facinelli (probably best known to contemporary audiences as Carlisle Cullen in the Twilight franchise). Seth Green shines in an early role, pre-dating his run as Oz in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Keep an eye out for a young Jamie Pressly and Selma Blair who both pop up in supporting roles.
Even watching this movie 18 years later, I still find myself melting over Preston Meyers (the always adorable Ethan Embry). The over achieving Preston has spent four years pining after insecure popular girl Amanda Beckett (Jennifer Love Hewitt), and is finally in a place where he’s ready to tell the newly single Amanda how he feels. Embry, of whom I’m a long-standing fangirl, shines in the film. Just read the speech below and tell me you just find yourself wanting to pull Preston and his puppy dog eyes into a hug.
Look, I don’t know about you, but I really believe that there’s one person out there for everybody. That’s what this is about. It’s not just a sappy love letter telling her how my heart stops every time I see her. It’s not just to tell her how I think she’s more than the home-coming queen, or Mike’s girlfriend. There’s this really amazing person inside of her that no one even bothers to see… what it’s really about is how she should just give me a chance. Just one chance. Maybe we could find out if there’s a reason for all of this. Why she’s not with Mike tonight, and why after four years, I’m still here with this letter.
Does the film have some trouble? There’s might be some clunky character exposition, and a sequence with Jenna Elfman in an angel costume that I’m still not quite sure I’m interpreting right. Then there’s the Smashmouth filled soundtrack (as a late 80’s kid who listened to a lot of Smashmouth, this is not a bad thing. It’s nostalgia, and I love it. That’s right, I’ll say it. I like Smashmouth.)
Can’t Hardly Wait is a gem of a teen movie, which has seemingly gotten lost in a decade that released some great ones (am I biased as someone’s who’s formative years were in the 90’s… maybe). Anywhoo, between the super-talented cast, and the narrative which is more interesting than simply the age-old quest for sex, if you are at all a fan of teen movies, or just looking for a good time, check it out.
My Verdict: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️