Could a post- #TimesUp teenage sex comedy signal a revolutionary new era in female representation on the big screen? Or could Kay Cannon’s brilliantly self-aware directing debut Blockers be a momentary, yet very welcome, glitch in the Hollywood Matrix?
Written by Brian Kehoe and Jim Kehoe, and staring Leslie Mann, John Cena and Ike Barinholtz as three parents trying to stop their teenage daughters from losing their virginity on prom night, Blockers offers up a simple, yet hugely effective idea, which despite presenting all the signs of yet another cliche-ridden gross-out comedy, still manages to impress with its incredibly progressive and “gender positive” narrative.
From the groundbreaking Porky’s (Bob Clark, 1981), to more recent classics such as Superbad (Greg Mottola, 2007) and Bad Neighbours (Nicholas Stoller, 2014), teenage boys have had their fair share of onscreen representation and haven’t had to look too hard to find dozens of teen comedies which celebrate, albeit in a hugely self-deprecating fashion, the loss of virginity in a positive manner. However it isn’t until now that we’ve seen teenage girls take centre stage and be allowed to be just as silly, nerdy and as sex-obsessed as any boy of the same age, instead of making do with the less realistic “manic pixie dream girl” representation we’ve come to expect in recent years.
Lisa (Mann), Mitchell (Cena) and Hunter (Barinholtz) have been friends since the moment their little girls met at the kindergarten gates. As their now teenage girls prepare to go to prom, the adults inadvertently find out that the girls are planning to lose their virginity on the same night. While Lisa’s daughter Julie (Kathryn Newton) is in loving long-term relationship, her two best friends Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan) and Sam (Gideon Adlon) only agree to go ahead with the plan in solidarity with their best friends. All hell breaks loose when the adults find out and decide to crash several parties in ordered to stop the girls from going ahead with their sex pact.
Perhaps the most interesting of all dynamics in this brilliantly well-judged comedy is the one which exists between the adults. Choosing to have Leslie Mann’s character as the driving force behind the whole thing makes it clear from the offset that this isn’t a film about alpha males defending their daughters’ honour against their own choices, but rather offers a far more touching “buddy movie” narrative without ever a hint of romance between Mann and either of the male protagonists, something seldom seen in mainstream comedies.
Director Kay Cannon succeeds where others have failed before her by offering up the teenage girls as funny, intelligent and never afraid of looking ridiculous. This goes to show that we have come a long way from painting girls as unrealistic objects of desire, rather than fully fledged teenagers who have the same needs and desires as their male counterpart.
While Blockers may seem to some as business as usual, it is important to understand the groundbreaking quality of this comedy. Writers Brian Kehoe and Jim Kehoe understand the need for change in the way girls have been represented so far, and by offering these teen girls as a mixture of nerdy, clever and wonderfully self-aware, they have managed to give us something truly revolutionary, albeit in the guise of a mainstream gross-out comedy. Do not miss this.
Blockers is in chimes from Friday 30th of March.