Movies With New Year's Eve In It! "Can't Buy Me Love" Review

Photo Credit: Buena Vista Pictures

Movies With New Year's Eve In It! "Can't Buy Me Love" Review

Rating: PG-13
Length: 97 minutes
Release date: August 14, 1987
Directed by: Steve Rash
Genre: Comedy / Drama / Romance

It would be difficult to think of today's Patrick Dempsey as a nerdy high school senior who needs to hire a cheerleader girlfriend to be accepted into the popular jock cliques, but this is exactly the premise of "Can't Buy Me Love." The teen romantic comedy stars Dempsey as a social-climbing nerd named Ronald Miller, and Amanda Peterson stars as Cindy, the popular girl he hires with the money he made from his summer landscaping job.

Dempsey played this role long before he was cast as a dreamy surgeon in the long-running television series "Grey's Anatomy" and before he was named Sexiest Man Alive byPeople Magazine.In this film, a young Dempsey is suited up in classic nerd gear. He also wears glasses and has disastrously gelled hair. The challenge for any viewer first watching "Can't Buy Me Love" will be empathizing with the main characters, who desperately want to be popular and betray their old friends without thinking about it.

Part of this problem is countered by the natural charisma of both characters. Dempsey, even disguised in full nerd gear, emits an inner confidence that assures audiences that he will do just fine in the more cutthroat social milieu of the popular cliques. That confidence allows him to make an offer that, in a more realistic or satirical movie, would be dismissed by audiences and the object of the proposal. Knowing that Cindy is strapped for cash because she ruined her mother's coat and has no money to replace it, Ronald offers her $1,000 to be his girlfriend for a month. Cindy reluctantly agrees, but it is not long before she becomes committed to the task and gives Ronald a makeover.

Before the planned theatrical breakup scene in front of all their friends, Ronald and Cindy begin to develop feelings for each other, but neither fully expresses their emotions. During the breakup scene, Ronald goes further than he has to, saying things about Cindy's shallowness and selfishness that, perhaps, are feelings about his new self that he is projecting on her.

After the breakup, Ronald becomes an even bigger jerk. Having betrayed his old nerd friends, he now pretends and acts like he achieved his current status all on his own, ignoring Cindy and chasing other girls. Eventually, Cindy's college boyfriend finds out about her agreement with Ronald and dumps her, and Ronald is exposed as a fake. A redemptive scene is orchestrated, and Ronald rekindles his relationship with his old nerd friends. Returning to his old self also allows Ronald to connect with Cindy once again.

This film gives viewers a chance to see the early work of a young actor who would later become one of the most famous figures in Hollywood. It is also one of the first performances for which he was duly recognized, receiving a Young Artist Award for Best Young Actor in a Motion Picture Comedy. Dempsey seems to grow into the role, fully committing to Ronald's callous betrayal of his old friends and subsequently of Cindy. Even when the character behaves badly, audiences might feel a sense of dread for Ronald because they know exactly where such behavior leads in movies such as these. It is not long before he gets his just deserts, but he is not made to suffer in the condition of a double-pariah for long. After an act that proves his loyalty, Cindy is more than willing to give it a try with him again, this time free of charge.

Critics did not care much for this movie when it was released in 1987. Some even called the original agreement between Ronald and Cindy a form of teenage prostitution. This idea seems to be somewhat misguided because until Cindy catches the now-popular Ronald hooking up with another girl during a party, sex is hardly an element in this movie. The two characters played the role of boyfriend and girlfriend because of the social advantages that such a relationship might bring and not because of any sexual opportunities it may provide. This film demonstrates the artificiality of social hierarchies in high school and the personal sacrifices students make if they get too caught up in it.

Rating: 3 out of 5