First-Time Movie Director Kay Cannon Talks About 'Blockers'

Apr 8, 2018
Originally published on April 9, 2018 1:51 pm
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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

The movie "Blockers" was released this weekend. It tells the story of three teenage girls on prom night who make a pact to lose their virginity and three parents who are just catching on to their plan.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BLOCKERS")

LESLIE MANN: (As Lisa Decker) Julie left her laptop open.

JOHN CENA: (As Mitchell) Yeah. Great. What do they say?

MANN: (As Lisa Decker) OK. So there's something about an eggplant...

(SOUNDBITE OF NOTIFICATION CHIME)

MANN: (As Lisa Decker) ...Handshake.

IKE BARINHOLTZ: (As Hunter) Eggplant agreement.

CENA: (As Mitchell) Yeah. They've got an agreement to make eggplant parmesan.

BARINHOLTZ: (As Hunter) No, eggplants are [expletive] in teenage emoji language.

CENA: (As Mitchell) What?

MANN: (As Lisa Decker) You know what? That's true. Julie told me that, that the emojis have - they all have secret meanings. So, like, trees are weed, and snowflakes are cocaine.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Those parents are the "Blockers." And if you didn't get it yet, here's a hint. The posters for the movie have a big rooster in front of that word. It's the first movie directed by Kay Cannon, but she's no stranger to comedy. She's worked on "30 Rock," created the Netflix show, "Girlboss" and wrote the "Pitch Perfect" movies. And she joins us now from NPR West in Culver City. Hi.

KAY CANNON: Hi.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So this film is about a lot of stuff. But I have to say, personally, as a mom of a young girl, what struck me about this is that the parents are not able to let go of their girls, are they?

CANNON: They aren't. And I'm also a mom of a young girl. I mean, she's 4. So I've got a little bit of ways to go before she...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Mine's 5.

CANNON: So yeah. OK. Yeah. So we're in the same boat. But I think about it all the time, of, like, you know, what will I be like the day that she decides that she wants to have sex? Or when she just really grows up, you know, will I stay progressive? Will I have a hard time letting go? I know I will, you know, all of those things.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Take us through the plot.

CANNON: Three young women, who've been best friends since they were little, decide to lose their virginity on prom night. And then, the parents discover that they've made this pact. And then, they try to stop their kids from doing it. But it's more about how the parents, for their own various reasons, want to stop their kid.

Leslie Mann's character, with her daughter, they're really close. And she's - Leslie Mann is just afraid of being alone. So she doesn't want her daughter to, like, fall in love with her boyfriend and move across the country and go to college, you know, away from her. And Mitchell, played by John Cena, he sees Kayla's date as just a really bad guy. Like, he sees him with, like, a, you know, a topknot...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: A smirk on his face.

CANNON: Like, with a smirk on his face. And from Mitchell's point of view, he's, like, oh, you know, my daughter's perfect. I've raised her to be this, like, amazing athlete, and she's going to college. And I can't, like, I can't have her with this bad guy. And then, Hunter, he wants to give Sam, his daughter, the best night of her life. And he knows - because he's her father - that she's actually gay. And he feels like she's going to lose her virginity just out of peer pressure, to the wrong sex.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Right. And then, there are the daughters. They are Generation Z. And they're pretty comfortable with themselves and their sexuality. Let's listen to them talking about the pact.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BLOCKERS")

GERALDINE VISWANATHAN: (As Kayla) I'm in.

KATHRYN NEWTON: (As Julie) What?

VISWANATHAN: (As Kayla) I'm in. I'm having sex tonight, too.

GIDEON ADLON: (As Sam) Just like that?

VISWANATHAN: (As Kayla) Yeah. I mean, why not?

NEWTON: (As Julie) Because it's your first time, and your first time should be special and perfect.

VISWANATHAN: (As Kayla) Yours can be special and perfect. Mine is going to be tonight and with that dude.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So these girls are different than the rom-com girls you would normally see. How did you first pitch this movie?

CANNON: There was a script called Cherries (ph), and it had three dads and a bunch of guy producers. And they felt like, we need to get a woman's perspective. So I was offered the job. And what was sort of lacking in earlier drafts was specificity and story arcs for these daughters.

What I love about them is that they're real. Like, high school for me was a long time ago. But me and my girlfriend sat around the cafeteria table, and we talked like that. So it's new to society, but it's not new to women, I don't think, to girlfriends. That's more of who we are than objects of desire or, you know....

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah because there's these spate of movies in the '80s and '90s and beyond about boys losing their virginity, right?

CANNON: Yeah.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And this feels new somehow.

CANNON: Yeah. I mean, it's new because it's ladies talking about it, you know?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Young ladies.

CANNON: Young ladies. And young ladies who talk about it in a very different way, you know? They don't make the guys objects of desire. They...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: They're not doing it to make the guy happy. They're doing it to make themselves happy because this is something that they want...

CANNON: Exactly. It's something that they want. They have agency over their own bodies, and they're funny.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So I read that some male executives were squeamish about the way one of the young female characters talked about being pleasured.

CANNON: Yeah. It's not as that they were squeamish. It's that they thought that it was too crass for audiences, you know? Like, they were kind of like drawing the line of, like, that's not how they would talk. And then, of course, I get right back up. I'm like, that is how they talk (laughter).

And, you know, laughs win. Like, I previewed the movie a bunch of times. And the line that you're referring to gets one of the biggest laughs at the movie, you know? Like, that's how I tend to win arguments about stuff that, you know, maybe we haven't seen come out of the mouth of women, is if the audience is laughing. Then, it wins. Then, I win.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: There are a lot of feminist touches in the film. There's a scene where one of the moms who isn't one of the blockers tries to stop the others from going forward with their plans. And she basically calls them out for holding their daughters to different standards than they'd hold their sons to.

CANNON: Yeah. That scene was super important to me. And there was one moment in the rewriting process where the scene had been taken out, and I really disagreed with that. And then, it got brought back. And what was important to me was that we'd call out the double standard and to have a bigger conversation about, like, we'll never be treated equal if we can't even have our parents see us as equals. Like, and I love...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And it felt authentic. I mean, it felt like that is a conversation the two moms would have. And it's good that two women were having it.

CANNON: Yeah. I totally agree. And I love the line that Lisa says because I think this is the constant struggle within parents, which is I don't know about society. I'll think about society tomorrow. Tonight, I'm just thinking about my daughter.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Kay Cannon. Her new movie is "Blockers," and it opened this weekend. Thank you so much.

CANNON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.