Blockers: One of the Most Overlooked Movies of 2018
Kay Cannon’s sex positive comedy is one of the best films of the year — so why is no one talking about it?
In my recently published recap of my year at the movies, I noted that Blockers is the best comedy of the year. Not only that, Blockers is one of the best movies of the year, period. It’s inclusive, empathetic, and most importantly, a sex positive movie for young people coming up in today’s society. To put a cherry on top of that sundae, it’s also hysterical. So why is no one talking about it?
Blockers started its theater run in early April this year, which usually means being overlooked for end of year lists. This tends to happen frequently, especially in today’s overcrowded market. So many movies come out a year, both theatrically and on streaming sites, that it gets hard to remember when a movie came out. It’s no fault of the movie, but when dealing with an early release, it can slip through the cracks of the memory by December. Unfortunately, Blockers seems to have suffered that fate.
Another reason that Kay Cannon’s movie has ended up sidelined is its genre. It’s a sex comedy; its quality is irrelevant in the eyes of many. Comedy is a genre that tends to be overlooked, as if invoking laughter actually diminishes a movie’s artistic integrity. Sure, there are some gross out gags and slapstick moments in Blockers, but they work in the context of the story. John Cena’s infamous butt-chugging scene seemed gross and weird in the trailers. It still does in the movie, but his character’s motivations behind the gross and weird actions make it funny. Every laugh in Blockers is earned, because the emotions behind them are genuine.
In a year where representation and inclusivity in film has been so lauded, I’m surprised that Blockers didn’t make more of a splash. Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan), a biracial teen, is not written as a girl struggling with her Indian heritage. Her mother, Marcie (Sarayu Blue), is not the stereotypical Indian mother we see in much of American media, forcing her beliefs and traditions on her modern age daughter. In fact, their race is only mentioned once, in a joke pointing out another character’s ignorance. No, Marcie is a modern-day feminist, who points out the obvious double standard the three lead parents are reinforcing by trying to “cock block” their daughters. Kayla is a tom boy student athlete with a wicked sense of humor and loads of self assurance, which she attributes to her strong parents. It’s refreshing to have an inclusive movie not falling back on stereotypes, but writing real characters instead.
The LGBT community is also represented here through Sam (Gideon Adlon), who is struggling with her sexuality at the beginning of the film. She’s dating the harmless and good natured Chad, but it’s implied early on in the movie that she is interested in girls. Throughout the night, she learns that she is indeed a lesbian, which leads to an emotional payoff for her character that truly tugs at the heartstrings. A scene between Sam and her father (Ike Barinholtz) actually brought tears to my eyes. Sam’s arc is crafted with a lot of empathy and care, and while it wraps up rather quickly, it is a beautiful wrap-up nonetheless.
Sex positive themes are prevalent throughout the movie, and the three teenage leads show that they have total autonomy over their bodies and sexual experiences. This female empowerment angle sets Blockers apart from its peers, being in a genre that typically views women as conquests (see the American Pie franchise). Their parents may be ignorant and flawed, but their hearts are in the right place. People do stupid things for the ones they love, and Blockers understands that. There’s real humanity behind all of the characters. All of them make mistakes, but there isn’t a single character that isn’t endearing in this movie. Every daughter-parent pair in this movie gets a fully-realized arc, where each of them learn important lessons and grow as people.
It would have been easy to pass Blockers off as nothing but a gender-flipped American Pie, but it is so much more than that. Blockers gets right what so many other teen sex comedies get wrong: it focuses on sexuality and sexual agency, not the sexual act. It never judges our characters, despite them judging each other, and it has a heart-warming empathy that permeates the viewing experience. It may not be on a lot of “best of” lists this year. But it should be.