Admittedly, I went into last Friday night's screening of the new movie Neighbors expecting to laugh, and to see actor Zac Efron in various stages of undress. On both counts, the movie delivered. It's not something that deserves to be boasted about (being enamored with another person's physique), but I am honest about it. As it turned out to be the # 1 movie in the country over the weekend, no doubt others felt the same.
What I wasn't expecting with Neighbors was its rather progressive tone. The film, about a thirty-something married couple with a baby who see their lives in tatters after a loud fraternity moves in next door, is a poster child for acceptance and respect for strong women and human sexuality. If you're going in to Neighbors with the expectation of backseat female characters and to be ogling various parts of women's anatomy, you'll be sorely disappointed.
Actress Rose Byrne is delightful as Seth Rogen's wife, Kelly. Rogen, who plays Mac, is equaled by his wife's intellect and cunning. She gets involved with the hi-jinx just as much as he does. It's odd to say this about a crude-humor summer comedy, but I could see Byrne deserving a nomination for her acting in this film.
We are also treated to Kelly and Mac seeing a gay couple looking at the house next door and hoping that they decide to buy it. They refer to the gay couple as their "dream neighbors." It can not be overstated how refreshing that was to witness in a mainstream Hollywood film! And then there was the fact that Mac -- an obviously heterosexual character -- was still blown away by how good looking Zac Efron was.
Indeed, Efron's character (Teddy) is idolized by several people in Neighbors. Mac, the frat's VP, Pete (Dave Franco), and many others - they are all a tad smitten with Teddy. Pete has an obvious affection for him, although it would likely be wrong to consider it gay. In fact, that's what is so refreshing about the movie: The reality is laid bare that, yes, men can find other men attractive and not be gay. They can even love another man, and not be gay. This is ok. There should be no stigma attached to it.
Likewise, we are shown that strong female characters don't have to be portrayed as bitches, butch lesbians, stout matriarchs, or whatever stereotypes are most often utilized for them in cinema. They can be your average wife and mother, just trying to get through life. I know and encounter women like this every day. It feels real. It is real.
Neighbors, as a whole, feels like a true, 21st century movie. We know strong women in our every day lives. We know when someone of the same sex is attractive, and know that it doesn't have to call someone's sexuality into question because of it. We know that, yes, men can be really, really sexy - just like women are often portrayed in film. We know all of this, yet so rarely see it at the movies.