Blockers (2018) by Kay Cannon
Review by Malcolm Baum
At a certain point in time, a lot of movies being made began to reflect on the movies that came before them. For example, one of America’s favorite directors, Quentin Tarantino, has made a career on making films that take obvious cues from directors of Hollywood’s golden era. A good amount of Clint Eastwood’s films are also a direct response to the idea of dispelling American myths set forth by the Westerns he used to star in.
Blockers, directed by Kay Cannon, is no different in that it too is a response to films that came before it--specifically to the teen sex comedies of the past twenty years: American Pie, Superbad, and Project X are obviously films that the writers of Blockers have seen and are responding to directly through the text of this movie.
The goal is simple: it’s to give teenage girls a light-hearted and raunchy sex comedy that’s usually focused towards a male demographic. The plot is pretty cut and dry too; three teenage girls (Julie, Kayla, and Sam) vow to lose their virginity on prom night but their respective parents (Lisa, Mitchell, and Hunter) find out and try to stop them. Blockers achieves its goal by making the girls’ prom night a vulgar but formative journey, filled with plenty of ups and downs, all the while maintaining a light-hearted and fun tone throughout.
How the movie goes beyond its main objective is through the parents’ subplot, where we see the side rarely seen in high school comedies: the struggle of parenting someone who’s on the cusp of adulthood and learning how to let go. This movie panders as much to the parents as it does its teenage girls, giving it great crossover appeal. Blockers juggles these two storylines to great effect, the result is quality sentimental and populist filmmaking.
One of the most interesting ideas espoused in the film’s narrative is the difference between having progressive values versus actually putting them into action. Lisa, Mitchell, and Hunter all seem to have basic middle class liberal beliefs, but they go straight out the window when they discover their daughters are about to explore sexuality. This does not go unnoticed and is occasionally checked through the dialogue. It becomes more and more evident that the parents are in the wrong as the film progresses, and that each of them are doing this because of their own personal insecurities pertaining to their daughters--not because they want to keep them “safe.”
About two thirds into the movie the parents get into a car crash, setting them emotionally over the edge and forcing them to ponder aloud on why they are really on this pursuit. When subtext becomes text, it can easily come off as self congratulatory, but Blockers does it in a way that feels more humanistic than most. Leslie Mann and Ike Barinholtz definitely aid the more sentimental parts of dialogue with strong acting performances. Cena’s character, Mitchell, isn’t given as much emotional depth as the other two parents, but this is made up for in physical comedy.
Lisa accidentally being in the hotel room where her daughter is about to lose her virginity stands out as a wonderful scene that encapsulates a lot of what makes the movie work as a whole. Lisa finds her daughter’s (Julie) hotel room and realizes that she shouldn’t interfere her sexuality. Before Lisa can leave the room, Julie walks in with Austin, her boyfriend, and Lisa is stuck under the bed in the room where her daughter is about to lose her virginity. Luckily for Lisa, as a form of foreplay, Julie and Austin decide to dance and look into each other’s eyes, giving Lisa an opportunity to sneak out of the room. As she sneaks, Lisa sees the dorky and juvenile love Julie and Austin have and is assured in her decision to not interfere. This scene alone is sentimental, funny, and somewhat strange in its romanticized parental voyeurism, as Lisa sees one the defining moments in Julie’s life, one that parents are not supposed to see. Lisa enjoys it, but it rather cements what she realized earlier in the scene, that Julie will be alright and it’s time to let go.
The teenagers’ subplot is a bit more generic than the parents’, which makes sense, given this movie was written by adults. Julie, Kayla, and Sam are somewhat generic characters who aren’t given a chance to be funny (aside from an occasional joke from Kayla). Most of the comedic relief comes from side characters, specifically from Connor (Kayla’s date, big stoner), Chad (Sam’s date, unfuckable dullard), and their eccentric unnamed limo driver. The most nuanced character of the trio is definitely Sam, as she goes through being a lesbian and feeling the heteronormative aspects of prom of which she’s expected to attend and bring a male date. The movie does a good job of not othering this experience, or even playing it up too much--it’s more about the Sam character discovering her own personal sexuality than the type of sexuality itself.
All three of the main teenage girls have different sexual experiences based on their level of readiness, diverging from the pact they made earlier that day. Blockers avoids a lot of the trappings associated with the term “sex positive”, showing the nuances of sexuality rather than just encouraging the act of sex itself. The movie ends on an upbeat note with the girls happy with the sexual decisions they made and ready to grow further as adults. That’s probably Blockers's most unique distinction: depicting teenage girls' sexuality in a way that’s positive and a part of life, rather than something to be feared and repressed.