Movie Looks: Can’t Hardly Wait

Last time I did one of these, I encouraged everyone to revisit the ’80s through Girls Just Want to Have Fun. Now, if that Columbia undergrad rocking the Sketchers platform shoes on the subway was any indication, we have cycled through fashion and have hit the late ’90s, early ’00s. If I needed a refresher on what was worn during my middle school years, I can always rewatch Can’t Hardly Wait.

Can’t Hardly Wait is what happens when we bring every single cliché about high school movies and throw them into one movie and make sure we condense the plotline even more, because a school year or the last month of school is just way too much time to flesh things out. Just introduce your stock characters via their “yearbook” picture and cram this story into one EPIC PARTY where love is found and broken and all sorts of wild schemes are hatched.

Here is an overview of the cast of characters:

  • Alternative, literary-minded, nerdy but not too nerdy, nice guy, aka the romantic lead in every ’90s teen movie (Ethan Embry).
Sure he may be kind of awkward and cool and smart in high school, but you are going to hate this guy after he starts his Freshman writing seminar and starts quoting Baudelaire. I should mention that Preston is spending his college attending a Kurt Vonnegut seminar because he’s probably a “serious writer.”
  • Alternative, androgynous, apathetic best friend, who is stifled by small town life (Lauren Ambrose).
  • Enigmatic beautiful popular girl, who is totally more than just her superficial exterior (Jennifer Love Hewitt) + her gossipy friends.
You can tell she’s secretly deep because she quoted Jewel. To be fair, I used a Coldplay lyric as my quote, because high schoolers are so stupid.
  • Douchebag, popular dumb jock (Peter Fascinelli) + his dumb jock friends who are of course dating the aforementioned gossipy friends of popular girl.
  • Suburban “gangsta” — a staple of late ’90s movie, a usually awkward white kid (Seth Green) who is obsessed with hip hop often verging on offensive or racist. This movie at least addresses that pretty head on and also combines him with the “guy who’s whole motivation is to get laid before college.”
  • Nerd seeking revenge on popular kids.

So, really if you want to see every movie made in the last century that talks about the rite of passage that is American High School, you could probably just watch Can’t Hardly Wait, and get a pretty accurate understanding of them all. The only thing that doesn’t stand the test of time, probably rightfully so, is the fashion. What was the deal with all the halter tops?

Amazing Questionable Fashion Choices Made in Can’t Hardly Wait

  • Before we meet our Protagonists, let’s take a minute to appreciate Melissa Joan Hart, ’90s teen icon, clearly taking style tips from Britney Spears.

CHW - MJH Pigtails

  • Are you thinking, “Hey Karishma, none of what Denise and Preston are wearing are that bad”?  I need you to reassess this picture.

CHW - DenisePreston1

  • Still not convinced? Let’s look at another angle. Preston is wearing a patterned shiny button down over a long-sleeved baseball shirt, TUCKED IN to khakis.
CHW - Preston2
Preston, no.
  • Oh, I’m sorry did you think Denise’s outfit was kind of okay? Sort of ill-fitting, but that’s pretty indicative of the misanthropic misfit she is playing, anyway, right? Well, under that large leather coat was a crocheted sweater jacket.
CHW - Denise2
As someone who regularly wears “loungewear” as outside clothes, even I can’t revisit the horror of the long sweater robes.
  • Amanda’s outfit is pretty perfectly ’90s generic fashion. Nothing too offensive to the untrained eye. But look again…
CHW - BuiltInAmanda
  • Compared to the crushed velvet and lace midriff baring halter/spaghetti-strap dresses worn by her girl crew, Amanda looks practically tasteful and elegant.

CHW - Dresses

  • Nothing like a shiny satin muscle shirt to make a girl feel weak in the knees.
CHW - Satin
PLOT TWIST, this is her cousin trying to hit on her, so brace yourselves for SO much awkward.
  • Ah, the white suburban gangsta types. This is how I imagine Macklemore in high school; bike chain, combination lock, and everything.

CHW - Gangsta

  • Pretty sure I saw similar ladies wearing similar outfits in West Harlem this past weekend.

CHW - BrooklynPark

  • Dream party looks, to be honest. I’m talking about their facial expressions. What could they possibly be reacting to?

CHW - Disdain


  • Fact: Freddy Rodriguez never ages. Another fact: that outfit does. (Okay, this isn’t even the worst of the ’90s, but it still is so weirdly perfectly late ’90s. Is it the baseball cap? The broad lining on the tank top?)

CHW - Freddy Rodriguez

CHW - Groupies

  • Mike Dexter is visited by the Ghost of Alcoholic Douchebag Future. ’80s child actor Jerry O’Connell is pretty much here to pass the torch onto the new teen stars and also in a weird meta-twist, provide a stark, horrifying look at the dark side of child star futures.

CHW - NoChange

  • Stoners in Hawaiian shirts are eternal. Also, hey Jason Segel.

CHW - JasonSegal

  • In ’80s movies, nerds were associated with Stars (both Trek and Wars) and Dungeons & Dragons. The 90s had The X-Files.

CHW - XFiles

  • The most ’90s aspect of this picture are her accessories. ~*~Alternative~*~

CHW - EndDenisePreston3

  • Preston looks like he’s seen those Gap Commercials or this video way too many times and now he’s embraced this Swingers-esque aesthetic. He also could be wearing red because of love. SUBTLETY!

CHW - EndPreston

  • This movie manages to make Jennifer Love Hewitt look like a frumpy nerdy type by pretty much giving her a make-under to match Ethan Embry. She’s been reversed She’s All That‘d (yes I know, this movie predates that one). No strappy sundresses for this girl, true love is wearing high-waisted khakis and elderly librarian sweaters together.

CHW - EndAmanda

Finally, because I’m assuming the movie producers decided they really wanted to appeal to the Dharma and Greg demographic, here’s a scene of Jenna Elfman as an advice-giving stripper angel.

CHW - JennaElfman
Yes, a stripper angel.

As a final note, this is a reminder that Barry Manilow’s “Mandy” factors heavily in Preston’s quest to win Amanda, you know because of her name.

Can’t Hardly Wait is on Netflix Instant, so grab some butterfly clips and your best crushed velvet workout shorts and tank combo and get ready for weird ’90s nostalgia.

By Karishma

Karishma is a twenty-something living in New York City and is trying her hardest to live out every cliche about Millennials. This involves eating her feelings, drowning in debt and mocking infomercials. She likes sociology so much that she has two degrees in it, and is still warding off her parents' questions about a real career.

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