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By Georgia Menides | October 3, 2008

You know you have confidence issues when you choose to stay at home and jerk off to fantasies of your dream girl, instead of going to the party where she’s going to be that night. And this is exactly how we learn, right away, that Coop has confidence issues.

We can understand why he feels this way. About to graduate and clearly a smart guy, Coop still lives with his parents and is putting his college education to good use stocking shelves at Barnes and Noble.

I have so been there. And I imagine half the English majors in the world have probably experienced similar moments of utter humiliation and self doubt. You graduate. You quickly realize that no one is going to pay you to read books, or even to write them yet. You don’t know what you want to do for a living beside read and write books. You don’t how to use your passion to read and write books to actually earn a living, and self doubt takes over. You felt like a star in college, but you feel like a failure in real life. It’s enough to make anyone want to stay home on a Friday night and m********e. At least Coop’s parents are out of town so he has the place to himself.

But just as Coop is about to come, his phone rings. It’s Max, Coop’s slightly annoying best friend. The party has been busted. Max wants to come over. From here, things get even better for Coop. Kate, a girl Max has been sleeping with, is coming over too. And she is bringing… you guessed it… Coop’s dream girl (Liz), with her. Suddenly the entire night has changed. Will tonight be the night that Coop overcomes his insecurity and finally makes a move on the girl of his dreams?

Okay, so Joe Burke’s short film, “Coop’s Night In,” isn’t exactly “Babel the sequel”… and that’s fine. Most of us can relate to the themes here. Most of us have experienced that end of college freak out. Most of us remember the moment senior year where we realized that our carefree days of college parties were numbered. And we have all been in situations where the person we want is right in front of us, and we are too scared to do anything about it.

That said, “Coop’s Night In” fell pretty flat for me. Despite some fantastic camera work, the first two thirds of this short felt like a student film in every sense of the words. It looked low budget. It felt low budget. It was hard to take seriously. The direction felt minimal. There was no movement. The characters spent too much time just sitting in the same place talking, and the dialogue about partying and hooking up with hot chicks wasn’t interesting enough to merit such lack of action. I felt like I was watching a bunch of student actors, rather than student characters. The actors themselves seemed to be having fun and connecting, but they did not seem like characters. They seemed like actors having a good time goofing off reading lines.

This film felt like a college senior thesis play, about being in college, that the writer decided to turn into a movie… which is also fine. Not every film needs to be an uber-serious effort in boundary breaking character study. But I feel like these characters needed some work and that the plot was a little contrived.

For example, Coop is best friends with Max. Max is dating Kate. Kate is best friends with Liz. Coop is in love with Liz. So if she’s been this accessible all year, why the hell was this the first night that Coop and Liz ended up in the same place together? Also, although he was good looking, Max simply didn’t have the energy of the kind of guy that would be sleeping with two hot girls in one night. So his story about the hot sex he had at the party before coming to Coop’s house took me out of the film. It made me feel like one of my friends was jokingly reading lines about being a player, while making fun of the lines at the same time.

Did I care whether or not Coop gets his girl? I guess so… somewhat. But with a better set up I may have cared more.

But in the final scene of “Coops Night In,” the energy changes. The four friends go into the bathroom to smoke pot and suddenly it doesn’t feel like a student film anymore. Suddenly I was sucked into what felt like a raw and intimate moment between a real group of friends. The evocative camera angles worked perfectly with the intimate lighting, in this scene done all by candlelight. The conversation became deep and nostalgic as the smoke whirled through the gorgeously lit shots of four very expressive characters. And the song that scores the ending of the movie is emotional and powerful.

The ending did indeed capture a heartbreaking yet liberating moment of understanding. Youth is fleeting, and there is no time to waste being afraid of anything… even a hot girl.

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