Ronald Miller (Dempsey) is a typical high school nerd living in Tucson. He has spent all summer mowing lawns to save up for a telescope. At an opportune moment, he makes a deal with popular cheerleader Cynthia “Cindy” Mancini (Peterson). Cindy had borrowed a suede outfit that belonged to her mother, without her permission, and needs to replace it quickly after Quint (Cort McCown) accidentally spilled red wine on it at a party.
Having few options except telling her Mom the truth, she reluctantly agrees to his proposal. He will give her $1000 to purchase a new suede outfit, and she will help him look “cool” by pretending to be his girlfriend for a month, even though she already has a boyfriend named Bobby who is away at his freshman year at the University of Iowa. He feels that he can be a part of the popular crowd if they think she is dating him. Both agree never to reveal their financial arrangement.
Ronald then trades his nerdy-but-loyal friends for the shallow popular students and undergoes a complete clothing and hair makeover under Cindy’s direction. Over the course of the month, they discover each other’s individuality and a bond develops organically between the two.
Cindy soon starts to genuinely like Ronald and appreciates his company. She opens up to him as he washes her car at her house, she goes inside to get a poem that she had written that meant the world to her and lets him read it. She gets to know him better as he reveals his interests in astronomy and space travel. They gaze at the moon and he tells her how when they are their parents age “people will be working there and living there… maybe even us”.
On the last date which Ronald has “paid” for, Cindy hints that she would like to kiss Ronald, signifying that she has real feelings for him, but he misunderstands and assumes she wants to talk about their breakup. They dramatically “break up” in front of a crowd at school but Ronald takes things too far and says some hurtful things about Cindy in front of their friends.
She becomes cool and distant but warns him that popularity is hard work and he needs to make sure he “stays [him]self”. The next day, Cindy appears disgusted with Ronald when she sees him behaving arrogantly at school and becomes jealous when she sees him flirting with her best friends Barbara and Patty, whom he later takes out on dates.
Can’t Buy Me Love is a 1987 teen comedy feature film starring Patrick Dempsey and Amanda Peterson in a story about a nerd at a high school in Tucson, Arizona who gives a cheerleader $1,000 to pretend to be his girlfriend for a month. The film was directed by Steve Rash and takes its title from a Beatles song with the same title.
Can’t Buy Me Love (1987)
Directed by: Steve Rash
Starring: Patrick Dempsey, Amanda Peterson, Courtney Gains, Tina Caspary, Seth Green, Sharon Farrell, Darcy DeMoss, Dennis Dugan
Screenplay by: Michael Swerdlick
Production Design by: Donald Lee Harris
Cinematography by: Peter Lyons Collister
Film Editing by: Jeff Gourson
Costume Design by: Gregory Poe
Set Decoration by: Andrew Bernard, Christian W. Russhon
Music by: Robert Folk
Distributed by: Buena Vista Pictures
Release Date: August 14, 1987