Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising ranks as one of the bigger surprises of the year for the following reason: “It’s feminist as fuck,” to quote Pajiba’s Rebecca Pahle. At the very least, it is the rare Hollywood comedy which allows the women to be just as gross and immature as the men, and it shines a light on the Greek system’s little-known rule forbidding sororities from throwing parties. If they want to drink and rage on through the night they have to go to frat parties (or local clubs, I guess), and this is at a time when rape crimes on college campuses are seemingly out of control.
Neighbors 2 isn’t The Hunting Grounds, though. No sobering exposé here. Instead, we have a broad, R-rated comedy which is just as concerned with parenthood and guys figuring out their own shit as it is with the girls (led by Chloe Grace Moretz, Kiersey Clemons, Beanie Feldstein) standing up to the Greek system, rejecting the remarkably rapey fraternities on campus and striking out on their own, often inebriated terms.
And if you go by IMDB this all came from the minds of five dudes, specifically Andrew Jay Cohen, Brendan O’Brien, Nicholas Stoller (who also directed), Seth Rogen and his writing partner Evan Goldberg. It’s not so much that it’s hard to believe five guys wrote the dialogue and created the new female characters introduced in the sequel; I just suspected there had to have been some female voices whispering in their ears, possibly weighing in on some of the more outrageous ideas, like one early prank scene involving the sorority throwing used tampons at Rogen and Rose Byrne’s house.
Turns out, I was right. In a recent interview with The Frame, Stoller opened up about some of the unsung female voices who helped make Neighbors 2, to again quote Pajiba, “a movie about a college sorority that’s sex-positive without being exploitative”:
1. It took a woman who’d been in a sorority to tell Nicholas Stoller and the guys about the “no party” rule:
Stoller: We pretty much started with the idea [of focusing on a sorority] because it just seemed like a natural thing. We all wanted it to be younger because it just seemed funnier if they were just freshmen. Then, one of the interns at Point Grey Pictures — Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s production company — who had been in a sorority, told us this rule that sororities aren’t allowed to party. And I’ve heard many NPR articles about this since. It’s really bad to have to go to a fraternity versus being on your own turf. Not all frats are like this, but there are obviously certain frats that aren’t awesome and don’t necessarily respect women. So as soon as we heard that rule, which seemed insane to us, that was obviously the launching-off point. It’s such an insane rule that I shot Selena Gomez, who plays the sort of sorority president at the beginning, looking into camera and saying, “Seriously, guys, this is a real rule.”
2. Although they didn’t write a word of dialogue, the sorority sister actresses all massively contributed to the story and creation of their characters
Before we even started writing the script, we sat down with Chloe [Grace Moretz] and talked to her about what she thought, what kind of story she would want to be a part of and how she saw the character. Then we started working on it and figuring out the story and wrote many versions of the script. Then I sat down with her and the other women that we’d cast and interviewed them. It was almost like a therapy session where we all just talked about things like: What are you like when you date someone? What are you like when you dump someone? What are you like when you’re scared?
I didn’t do that much with the other characters because they were coming from the first movie. On the first movie, I did that with Zac Efron, Dave Franco and Seth Rogen. This time I didn’t have to do that with anyone except for the sorority women. That’s a big part of making sure it goes into their voices. I find that the most relatable emotional ideas tend to be gender-neutral and tend to be universal experiences. With this, it took us a long time to figure it out, but with the women it was that everyone is afraid when they get to college — that they’re going to be seen as the high school losers they were. At first we were partially blinded by making sure they party as hard as the guys. We had a lot of stuff we were trying to service and we kind of neglected the simple emotional idea. As soon as we realized that, it was quick to figure out the script.
3. Two female comedian-writers were available on set to perform uncredited rewrites
What was particularly challenging about this one was that we had these young, sorority women characters in the film. How young they were and being freshmen in college — we wanted to make sure that we hit it right. When I’m writing for Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne’s characters, their marriage is pretty similar to my marriage with my wife, or Seth’s marriage with his wife. It was really trying to access what it is to be 18 and going into college. It was really important to us that the women be as insane and gross and stupid as the guys in the first “Neighbors.” That meant a slightly different thing. I know how I behaved in college, but it’s a different thing with women. So we had some women comedy writers on set, hilarious writers Amanda Lund and Maria Blasucci helping us. There was almost a TV writer’s room on set.
This kind of thing is not uncommon. Ant-Man, for example, had two mostly unknown writers (Andrew Barrer & Gabriel Ferrari) perform uncredited rewrites throughout production. Their reward is that they’ve now been hired to officially co-write the sequel (Ant-Man and the Wasp) with Paul Rudd and Adam McKay.
I don’t know if history will repeat itself for Amanda Lund and Maria Blasucci and a hypothetical Neighbors 3, but they did at least get something Barrer and Ferrari didn’t: an official credit on their movie. Lund and Blasucci are officially credited as Associate Producers on Neighbors 2.
Who are they, though?
They’ve both been TV guest stars (Brooklyn Nine-Nine, The League, and Someone Marry Barry for Lund, Drunk History and Family Tree for Blasucci), but they are possibly best known for writing, producing and starring in the Yahoo web series Ghost Ghirls.
Of course, just because Stoller says Lund and Blasucci were around doesn’t mean we should automatically attribute the film’s funniest or more progressive moments to them, and I don’t mean to suggest men can’t write compelling female characters or that Neighbors 2 is somehow without flaws in that regard. However, the best part of Neighbors 2 is ultimately the attention it brings to the Greek system’s rules about sororities, and that’s something a woman had to tell them about. Thankfully, they listened and invited other women to contribute to the creation of the film, and the result is a comedy worth celebrating.
Source: The Frame