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Film / Can't Hardly Wait

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Yesterday's history. Tomorrow's the future. Tonight's the party!

"...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 '80s. Or a successor to American Graffiti and Dazed and Confused minus the period setting.

Can't Hardly Wait provides examples of the following:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Amanda encounters several over the course of the film.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: When Preston finally manages to face Amanda and tell her how he feels, Amanda shuts him down by talking, assuming that he's not any different from the other guys at the party who have propositioned her.
  • Better as Friends: Preston and Denise dated for about a week in their backstory, but remain Platonic Life-Partners throughout the film.
  • Big Fancy House: The party's setting is absolutely massive, complete with a pool and separate pool house. It's noted that the graduation class consisted of over five hundred people, necessitating such a large venue, and the party's hostess desperately spends the entire film trying (and failing) to ensure the place doesn't get trashed.
  • The Cameo:
    • Jenna Elfman as a stripper dressed as an angel who gives Preston advice.
    • Jerry O'Connell as Trip McNeely, a Huntington graduate and hero of Mike's.
    • Selma Blair as one of the girls that shoots Mike down later in the film.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The girl trying to get everyone to sign her yearbook.
  • Class Princess: Prom Queen Amanda is far nicer than her Jerk Jock ex-boyfriend and shallow acquaintances, and is only ever mean to any of the less popular kids in one brief moment that she later regrets.
  • College Is "High School, Part 2": Averted. Trip McNeely tells Mike that college women aren't the easy pickings that high school girls are and that they all have causes and prefer older guys. He's clearly unhappy with his life at this point and warns Mike not to make the same mistakes he did. Mike fails to heed this warning and becomes a Jaded Washout as a result.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Denise. As Preston says, "Do you have to rag on everybody?"
  • Dramatic Thunder: Used to Introduce Amanda Beckett and Mike Dexter to show Preston has missed his chance with her.
  • 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.
  • The Faceless: Amanda's face is obscured during the entirety of the flashback, either by camera angles, her own hair, or someone passing an object in front of her, so her face is never fully revealed until she walks into the party in the present day.
  • "Flowers for Algernon" Syndrome: All of Mike's character development is undone by the end.
  • 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. He is even credited as "Klepto Kid."
  • 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!".
  • Future Loser: Deconstructed with Mike.
  • Girl Posse: Amanda hangs out with a trio of shallow, pop-culture fixated girls who date Dumb Jocks. They aren't exactly True Companions, but they at least make an effort (telling Amanda they think she's prettier than Gwyneth Paltrow, then admitting that isn't true once she's out of earshot).
  • Hešvy MŽtal ‹mlaut: The band Lovebürger.
  • Head-Turning Beauty: Amanda basically has every guy flocking to her once she totally humiliates Mike.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: The angel stripper Preston encounters while trying to use a payphone.
  • Humiliation Conga: Mike goes through one.
  • Ignored Epiphany: Mike learns from Trip that being the Big Man on Campus in high school most certainly does not carry over into college, discovers that dumping Amanda in the manner that he did has not only burnt his bridges with her, but with every other girl in school, and ends up sitting drinking alone with the guy he bullied for years. While he apologises to William and even covers for him when they both get arrested, Mike's personality is effectively reset to what it was at the beginning of the film. This does come back to bite him, as he ends up losing his football scholarship after drinking too much, then losing his job after some incriminating pictures surface.
  • Jaded Washout: Trip McNeely. Mike is also on his way to becoming this.
  • Jerk Jock: Mike, on his way to becoming a Jaded Washout.
  • Locked in a Room: Kenny and Denise get stuck in the bathroom together after discovering the door jams when closed.
  • Locked in the Bathroom: In a cross between this and Locked in a Room, Kenny (Seth Green) and Denise (Lauren Ambrose) lock themselves in the upstairs bathroom...and can't get out because the door's broken.
  • 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.
  • Malaproper:
    Kenny: Damn, she's gonna think I got that premature evacuation!
  • Mistaken for Gay: The stripper thought Preston was in love with Barry Manilow.
  • Nerds Are Sexy: Well, nerds who can sing "Paradise City" are at least
  • 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).
  • Nervous Wreck: The Girl Whose Party It Is doesn't really get to enjoy the party, because she's too busy trying to keep the house from being totally trashed. This is understandable, since way too many people show up, the big family portrait gets vandalised, the curtains get set on fire, and.......something gets left in the fridge. By the time she she discovers Denise and Kenny in the upstairs bathroom, she's dishevelled and incredibly angry.
  • The '90s
  • 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."
  • Nothing Exciting Ever Happens Here: Quoted verbatim by one of William's friends during The Stinger, just before they get abducted by aliens.
  • N-Word Privileges: Kenny's friends find out the hard way that they don't have these.
  • Oblivious to Love: Amanda has no idea of Preston's feelings for her.
  • Oh, Crap!: Amanda literally says, "Oh, shit!" when she realizes that the guy she thought was an Abhorrent Admirer and to whom she just gave a Breaking Speech is actually the guy she had been looking for all night.
  • Ordinary High-School Student: Aside from being a Dogged Nice Guy, this is Preston's main character trait. He dresses with an open shirt over a t-shirt, drives an older car, and is somewhat balanced between academic subjects and athleticism according to his yearbook entry. Even when Amanda asks around about who he is, the two stoners she asks can only describe him as being kind of tall, having hair, and wearing t-shirts sometimes.
  • Pairing the Spares: The yearbook girl and the black guy who was Preston's friend due to their mutual fondness for remisicing.
  • Pretty Fly for a White Guy: Kenny and his friends. Hilarity Ensues when they run into some actual black people and ask them "what's up my niggas?"
  • 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.
  • Rousing Speech: Parodied.
    William: Tonight Mike Dexter will know humiliation, tonight is the night we fight back, tonight is our Independence Night!
  • Running Gag: Kenny
    • The Ditz running around the party trying to get everyone to sign her yearbook.
    • The band booked to perform at the party are too busy arguing to perform. And then when they are ready to perform, the cops have arrived to shut the party down.
    • The kid who is only ever seen stealing stuff.
    • The party hostess trying to stop things around the house getting ruined and failing miserably.
  • Satellite Character: Mike's fellow jocks and their girlfriends don't have any scenes where they aren't interacting with or observing Mike or Amanda. This is lampshaded early on when William talks about his plan to prank Mike Dexter and "one of his random jock friends."
  • Shout-Out: The title is taken from The Replacements' song of the same name.
  • The Snark Knight: Denise, in addition to snarking at everything, really doesn't care for social events and doesn't want to be at the party. Even at school, she had no extra curricular activities and a girl sits next to her at the party only to determine whether or not she actually went to the same school in order to win a bet.
  • Stalker with a Crush: An Alternative Character Interpretation for Preston.
  • Sticky Fingers: One guy just keeps stealing things in every scene in which he appears, culminating in him stealing a police car when the cops break up the party. And he apparently gets away with it, since he turns up the next morning to steal a gumball machine.
  • The Stinger: William's two friends are walking down the street talking about how boring their lives are and regretting not going to the party, saying that nothing exciting ever happens here. Then they get abducted by aliens.
  • 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.
  • Take Our Word for It: The girl hosting the party sees something in the refrigerator...
    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.
  • Titled After the Song: Named after "Can't Hardly Wait" by The Replacements, which plays over the end credits.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: The film has multiple concurrent plots with the main ones being Preston's romantic pursuit of Amanda and her own dealing with her dumping by Mike, Denise and Kenny being locked in the upstairs bathroom, Mike attempting to get the other jocks to dump their own girlfriends and his realising the mistake he made in dumping Amanda, and William loosening up with drink in him. This is in addition to the minor plots, such as the band or the hostess attempting to keep the house in some sort of order. Some of these plots have some overlap, but even some of the main characters have absolutely no interaction with each other; For example, Preston never speaks to Mike or William, despite Mike at least having some impetus on his story.
  • Unsuspectingly Soused: Happens to William after he decides to have a beer in order to fit in at the party. He brings in a guide with him in order to gauge how much to drink and stay sober, but he quickly abandons it when he gets too drunk to read it.
  • Unusual Euphemism: William's "Laser Pointer".
  • We Want Our Jerk Back!: After Mike stands up for William after they're arrested and sees the error of his ways, growing as a person, he reverts to his former self.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue
    • 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.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: We don't have a firm location for the movie; the best we can nail it down to is somewhere in the Northeast, given the Bell Atlantic badging on the pay-phones Preston uses.note 
  • Wild Teen Party: Where most of the action takes place.