Year 7, Day 246 - 9/3/15 - Movie #2,138
BEFORE: This one should be a no-brainer, Aubrey Plaza carries over from "Safety Not Guaranteed", because I decided to not follow up with the time-travel angle. This is Film #3 on the Back to School topic, really it seems to be set in a character's summer between high-school and college, so I think that qualifies. We're coming up on Labor Day weekend, and I've got another film about the last days of summer vacation scheduled for Monday also.
I started the new part-time job today, so twice a week I'll be humping it from Queens to Brooklyn to help out another animator, someone I've known for a long time, but we haven't worked together since about 2004. Oddly, I received a lunchbox as a Christmas gift from my niece and nephew, so I started using it today - it was almost like I was going back to school myself. And now I'll be working for two independent animators who deal with adult themes in their films, so a film that's all about sex seems really on point right now.
THE PLOT: Feeling pressured to become more sexually experienced before she goes to college, Brandy Klark makes a list of things to accomplish before hitting campus in the fall.
AFTER: This is one of those nostalgia pieces, sort of like "Adventureland", because it's set back in someone's young adulthood, in 1993. Or perhaps it calls to mind "Wet Hot American Summer", only with less of a madcap feel. This was a really clever move, because teens today seem to know so much about sex (which is a good thing in some ways, but maybe not in others) so it wouldn't have made much sense to show a high-school girl in 2014 who wasn't just inexperienced, but also didn't have much knowledge about sex. Teens today can always look up a term they don't understand on the internet, even if Wikipedia doesn't have it then they could check the urban dictionary of slang.
Yes, there once was a more innocent time where if you didn't know what a "pearl necklace" was, or a "dirty sanchez" or a "rusty trombone", or even what the difference was between cowgirl and reverse cowgirl, you couldn't just search on it, you had to ASK someone. But that goes for every bit of helpful information too, like how effective different birth control methods were, or how to put on a condom. There was probably just as much WRONG information about sex floating around than there was RIGHT information, especially among teens.
The big positive here is that although there have been many comedies detailing the sexual awakening of teen boys, there really hasn't been much focus on teen girls over the years, except as topless eye candy or love interests for the teen male leads. Other than "Juno", you probably have to go back to "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" to see female characters asking each other about fellatio, and practicing on carrots in the cafeteria. OK, there were those "American Pie" movies, but again, those were really about teen boys trying to get laid.
I get that by focusing on a teen girl with normal human sexual desires, and a wish to have more experiences, we're celebrating the empowerment of women, blah di blah di blah. But I think that it cuts both ways, and if it would be crass or gross to show a teen boy working his way down a sexual check-list, then it should also be considered crass for a teen girl to do the same. They'd both be making the same mistake, in looking to have sex without necessarily being in love, they're kind of missing the point. And if it's wrong for men to seek out meaningless sex, then it should also be wrong for a girl.
And that's where this movie falls short, because we just KNOW she's going to learn that lesson sometime before the end of the film, probably right before the end of the film. They set it up right from the start, with the clean-cut, good-natured boy friend who wants to be more than friends, but instead she feels the first pangs of lust after seeing Mr. long-hair shirtless bad boy. Come on, we know she's destined to be with the boy who's also her best friend, but we have to watch her make a lot of mistakes in her quest for more experiences, simply because she's been told that she "needs" to have more of a sexual track record before she goes to college.
What she really needs to do is relax. You're not going to really benefit from empty sex, just to check items off of a list. They sort of touch on this with the swimming metaphor - if you can't swim, you're likely to panic and then you really might drown. But if you can just relax, your body is naturally buoyant, and you should float. (My brain understands this, but my body doesn't, so I find it easier just to avoid pools altogether.) Relationships sort of work the same way - the harder you try to find love or sex, the harder you make the process in the long run. It took me three years of chasing women in college to learn this, and as soon as I gave up the quest and just relaxed about it, it seemed to happen naturally.
But (and you knew there'd be a "but", right) I'm not sold on this whole concept of listing sexual experiences, just to check them off. Which is strange, because I'm usually all about making lists and organizing tasks. I guess after I started having sex in college, I burned through my own checklist pretty quickly, and settled in to a routine. Going beyond that would have involved kinky things like costumes or role-playing or threesomes, and everyone has that imaginary purity line that they won't cross.
And it's played for comic effect here, but our heroine seems just a bit too clueless about certain things. She doesn't know what "fingerbanging" is? Can't she just figure that out from the name itself? "Dry humping"? Come on, that's pretty self-explanatory, too, isn't it? I can understand it if you don't know what a blumpkin is, but come on, read a Cosmo or something to figure out that you don't really blow when you give a blow-job. (Admittedly, it's poorly named, it should be re-titled a suck-job, but such decisions are above my pay grade.)
Plus, doesn't anyone in this film know how to lock a door when they have sex? Alone or with someone, a locked door is really your best friend. The joke about a parent or sibling walking into a room where a sex act is taking place happens way too many times in this film to still be funny by the end.
I do have a genuine NITPICK POINT, but it's going to involve me getting even more vulgar than I've been already. The last on-screen checklist item (which, I understand, might differ from her paper list) is "orgasm", but Brandy's been through so many experiences at that point, she never had an orgasm? I know, the female body is a complicated wonderland and an orgasm isn't always a given, but "masturbation" was WAY earlier on the list, and if she didn't climax while doing that, should that even count? I mean, if she didn't have an orgasm, she wasn't doing that one right, right? Plus, the activity depicted when she does have one (again, according to the less-than-reliable on-screen graphic) is one that's not exactly known for allowing a woman to achieve one.
Also starring Bill Hader (last seen in "22 Jump Street"), Johnny Simmons (last seen in "The Conspirator"), Connie Britton (last seen in "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World"), Clark Gregg (last seen in "Fat Man and Little Boy"), Rachel Bilson (last seen in "Jumper"), Scott Porter, Alia Shawkat, Sarah Steele, Christopher Mintz-Plasse (last seen in "Neighbors"), Andy Samberg (ditto), Donald Glover (last seen in "The Muppets"), with cameos from Adam Pally, Jack McBrayer (last heard in "Wreck-It Ralph"), Brian Huskey (also last seen in "Neighbors"),
RATING: 6 out of 10 pool noodles