On Saturday I went to the advance screening of I Love You, Beth Cooper put on by the Tisch West Council Cinema Club, an NYU alumni group. They do great screenings, with free food and drinks after. This one was the first of the season, so I’m looking forward to more. They also show a short film before, and have a talkback afterwards with filmmakers.

In this talkback, it was casting director Janet Hirschenson who has a stellar filmography and has worked with director Chris Columbus for many years. Hirschenson had a bit to say about the process of casting big movies and looking for that indescribable star quality. (Unfortunately, she — someone who cast Lost Boys — couldn’t give a formula, only saying “It’s a certain twinkle in the eye that shows intelligence.”)

The casting coup for I Love You, Beth Cooper was, depending on how you look at it, either Heroes It Girl Hayden Panetierre or relative newcomer Paul Rust. Rust plays the nerdy high school valedictorian Denis Cooverman who confesses his love for Panetierre’s head cheerleader during his graduation speech. He also unburdens himself about a few other high school archetypes – the spoiled rich girl, the bully, the closeted gay kid. Fallout ensues.

It’s a promising premise, not particularly well-executed. The leads acquit themselves admirably with the thin material (screenplay by Larry Doyle based on his novel) but the B plot, involving Denis’ best friend, the aforementioned closeted gay kid (Jack Carpenter), falls thuddingly flat. When is Hollywood going to realize that gay jokes are on their way out, like bellbottoms or blackface?