"...The point is I totally realized that, you know? Fate. There is fate. But it only takes you so far, because once you're there, it's up to you to make it happen.."
— Angel Stripper (Jenna Elfman).
Preston has been in love with Amanda since the first day of high school. When Amanda is dumped by her football player boyfriend Mike shortly before graduation, Preston decides to attend a big graduation party everyone's going to and declare his feelings for Amanda. Despite her reservations about Preston's plan, his best friend Denise comes to the party with him. Also in attendance at the party are Mike, and William, who has been bullied by Mike all through high school and is at the party to take final revenge on him. Denise's childhood friend Kenny is also there, hoping to lose his virginity before he goes to college.Basically a Nineties version of the classic teen comedies of The Eighties. Or a successor to American Graffiti and Dazed and Confused minus the period setting.
Can't Hardly Wait provides examples of the following:
Anguished Declaration of Love: When Preston finally manages to face Amanda and tell her how he feels, Amanda shuts him down with a Breaking Speech, assuming that he's not any different from the other guys at the party who have propositioned her.
Dawson Casting: Averted with Jennifer Love Hewitt, Ethan Embry, Lauren Ambrose, and Charlie Korsmo, who were all in their late teens during filming. Played straight with Peter Facinelli and Seth Green, who were in their early twenties.
Deadpan Snarker: Denise. As Preston says, "Do you have to rag on everybody?"
Extremely Short Timespan: except for a flashback or two, the entire film takes place in a 24-hour period. Not only that, but except for the introduction and epilogue, each about five minutes long, the rest of the movie all takes place at the party.
Freeze-Frame Bonus: During Lichter's long list of activities, it includes "Large Wooden Club" buried deep in a long list of language clubs. The List also repeats itself three times.
Funny Background Event: Every time Chris Owen's character appears on screen, he is stealing something, starting off relatively sanely with bags of chips at the shop and culminating with a police car.
Funny Foreigner: The foreign exchange student whose English only goes as far as "Would you like to touch my penis?" and "I am a sex machine!".
Love Letter Lunacy: Preston writes a letter to Amanda explaining his feelings for her. Amanda eventually finds and reads the letter, but doesn't know what Preston looks like. She later sees his picture in the school yearbook, but only after she'd unknowingly rejected him, thinking he was just another Abhorrent Admirer.
Never Trust a Trailer: This theatrical trailer includes several scenes and alternate takes that were not ultimately included in the movie (some were added as deleted scenes for the 10th anniversary edition).
No Name Given: Other than the six main characters, very few are given actual names, instead being credited by the role they played in the story ("Girl Whose Party It Is", "Exchange Student", "Ready To Have Sex Girl").
Noodle Incident: Or rather, specifically, the Pudding Incident. William describing one of Mike's torments of him. Apparently nobody else has forgotten it.
Less Noodley than it otherwise might be: while describing it, William holds up a pair of pants with a brown stain on the seat that is presumably - hopefully - chocolate pudding.
Whatever was in the fridge that was, "...the most disgusting thing I've ever seen in my life."
Race for Your Love: Amanda gets to the train station just in time to ask Preston about his letter. Slight subversion in that while they do kiss, Preston eventually catches his train and the development of their relationship is revealed later.
Suspiciously Apropos Music: "Mandy" by Barry Manilow, which Preston takes as a sign that he should pursue Amanda. Lampshaded by Denise, who's weirded out that Preston's radio is tuned to a station that plays Barry Manilow songs.
It's later explained that it's in honor of Barry Manilow's birthday, and that that radio station plays "Mandy" every hour on the hour
Girl Whose Party It Is: That is the most disgusting thing I have ever seen! What is wrong with you people?
Their First Time: Kenny and Denise, on a bathroom floor. It's Kenny's first time, but Denise's second.
There Are No Coincidences: Preston has spent four years pining for Amanda based on the fact that she happened to walk into his class on the first day of school and take out the same strawberry Pop Tart that he was eating. He also interprets hearing Barry Manilow's song "Mandy" on the radio as being a sign that he should declare his love for Amanda.
William went to Harvard, started a major software company and is now dating a supermodel.
Mike went to college on a football scholarship... which he lost after his drinking got in the way of his performance. He then turned into a Jaded Washout, overweight and getting fired from his job at the car wash after some photos from the party surfaced.
Denise and Kenny broke up no less than five minutes after their last scene together, and got back together ten minutes later after finding a bathroom.
Preston and Amanda stayed in touch throughout the former's college years, and are still together.