Friday, May 9, 2014

Neighbors [2014]

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB (O)  ChicagoTribune (3 Stars) (2 1/2 Stars)  Fr. Dennis (2 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review (S. Wloszczyna) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review

What to say on this blog about Neighbors [2014] (directed by Nicholas Stoller, screenplay by Amdrew J. Cohen and Brendan O'Brien)?  After all at minimum, the film is at least in part a celebration (if largely nostalgically) of young adult / juvenile excess.  And yet (read on ...) there is actually more going on.  The film is actually _mostly_ about "growing up."

Mac and Kelly Radner (played by Seth Rogan and Rose Byrne) a young married couple still adjusting to the entry of their first child Stella (played by Elise and Zoey Vargas) into their lives has been trying really, really hard to make the transition from being "young and carefree" to "being responsible" without "selling out" (forgetting completely about how it was to be "young and carefree").  Mac's got some sort of an accounting job "downtown."  Even though Kelly and Mac met in college and so Kelly presumably has a college degree of her own, she/they've decided to have her be a "stay at home mom" if perhaps only for a while (and it's clear that she doesn't particularly like it ...).  They've bought a house in a relatively nice, still "kinda happening," residential section of town (if the film were in Chicago they'd be living in perhaps "Wrigleyville" or "Bucktown").

They're also dealing with (and again truth be told rather unhappy with) their best (and somewhat more irresponsible) friends presumably "from college days" Jimmy and Paula (played by Ike Barinholtz and Carla Gallo respectively) having decided that marriage was not for them and filing for divorce.  Indeed, Mac and Kelly are discovering how much divorce sucks "for the friends" of the divorcing couple as they've liked both Jimmy and Paula (and Mac even still works with Jimmy).  Yet now Jimmy and Paula don't want to do things together anymore ... forcing Mac and Kelly to constantly "choose between them."  Sigh ...

Well these very human adjustments (the arrival of baby daughter Stella) and frustrations/disappointments (having to deal with the divorce of their best friends) quickly get compounded in a far starker way when to their surprise, then shock, then horror the house next door gets purchased not by a "gay couple" (which presumably would have _helped_ increase the value of their home) but rather _by a College Fraternity_ from a nearby university, college students being notoriously penniless and Frats notoriously loud.  (Indeed, at one point when Mac and Kelly consider just getting-out and selling their home, this after "putting all that they had" into improving it before the Frat moved in, they're told by their real estate agent that the Frat's presence has HALVED the value of their home.  "You mean after all that we've put into our home, we lost HALF ITS VALUE because of that Frat?" they ask.  "Well, that's the bad news," the real estate agent responds. "The good news in, at least you still retain at least half its original value in this crazy time in this business."  Welcome to post 2008 financial crisis realities ...

But the Frat involves a far bigger challenge to Mac and Kelly than "merely money" (though losing HALF the value of one's house because of a Frat moving in next door is losing some serious money).  The Frat becomes a daily (and NIGHTLY) reminder to Mac and Kelly that they're "no longer young anymore."

Not that Frats necessarily represent "the Best of being Young" however.  Drugs, alcohol, utterly irresponsible sex all maim and kill.  The whole lifestyle REQUIRES _literally_ dehumanizing unwanted children produced through utterly-un-thought-through sexual activity labeling these children "fetuses" and thus allowing them to _become_ "abortable" that is _disposable_ ("Out of sight, out of mind ...").

 And yet the film, while not being that blunt about it, certainly points out the shallowness and _temporariness_ of the lifestyle:

At one point still early in the story, Kelly explains to some Sorority girls hanging out at a Frat Party that she and Mac were attending (both they and the Frat brothers were still trying to size each other up) how she and Mac met in college, fell in love, got married, moved to this neighborhood, had first child and so forth.  And the Sorority girls are all impressed: "Oooh, how sweet!" they respond with approval.  When Kelly asks one of the sorority girls how she met her boyfriend, she answered; "Well he came up to me at a party one night, told me that I was Hot ... and we've been Together ever since."  Not exactly the kind of "romance" that inspires Sonnets or Love Songs ...

Then poor, poor, ever tan and well-chiseled Teddy (played perfectly by Zac Efron), the Frat's president.  Utterly, utterly sincere, he's the only one who believes in the ritual (and party) life of the Frat.  And by the end of the film, it's clear-as-day that he's absolutely terrified of what's gonna happen after College is done.  His best friend, Frat V.P. Pete (played again to a tee by Dave Franco) is loyal, indeed as best a friend as one could have in one's young adult years.  BUT he also knows that "all this must end" and has been preparing (notably ... STUDYING) so that he could get a good job afterwards.

So for all the often very funny (if often very, very juvenile/irresponsible) antics that go-on throughout the film, the film is ultimately about Mac and Teddy on opposite sides of the transition to adulthood.  Mac (and at times also his wife Kelly) is looking back "to how it used to be" (and wishing he could still be there).  Teddy's looking toward the future ... with ever increasing fear.

But one way or another ... we all make that transition.  Hopefully, we have some good memories of "how it was."  But also hopefully we haven't "left a lot of wreckage ..."

So there it is.  Like a lot of reviewers, I'm left with the conclusion that "this film is actually better than it should be" ;-).  And I have a feeling that's what those associated with this film were aiming for ;-).

Just please honestly don't "hook-up" with people that you wouldn't have ANY idea of what you'd do with if you produced a child with them.  EVERYONE, including the child ... and God (our and the child's creator) ... deserves better than that.

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