dir: Judd Apatow
Amy Schumer plays a thinly veiled version of Amy Schumer in a romantic comedy about Amy’s difficulties with relationships and managing her copious consumption of booze and smoke.
Can she get away with this flagrant laziness?
It’d be like me playing a nervous Comic-Book Guy lookalike who drinks a lot and plays computer games late into the night.
It’s not a challenge. It wouldn’t even really register as fiction. It’d just be a sad documentary. I also can’t imagine there’s much of a market for it. Ryan Gosling is in talks about playing the lead as we speak, so, you know...
For Amy, though, there is a market for her not-so-unique brand of self-deprecating and caustic humour, resting, as it does, on pre-emptive admissions of what a drunken strumpet she is who doesn’t fit in comfortably with conventional standards of American / Hollywood 'beauty'.
The difference is (between my autobiographical existences and this movie), the massive difference is that Amy Schumer is incredibly funny and a great stand up performer who’s taken 11 or so years of hard work to get where she is. She’s hardly an overnight success, and she’s earned every dollar and every compliment, critical or otherwise.
That Trainwreck has been such a success for her, on the back of the success of her tv show, is a testament to a few things, not least of which is her willingness to play a strange character that is equal parts clueless, incisive, deliberately embarrassing, sexually open and apologetically unapologetic.
Most of all, she’s screamingly funny, at least to me.
The screenplay for Trainwreck is meant to be loosely based on Schumer’s own life, although I’m not sure any part of it is that autobiographical other than that her dad in real life had multiple sclerosis and was a bit of a jerk.
In this flick her dad is played by Colin Quinn, and has MS and is incredibly sexist and racist.
I’m not sure that the other relationship stuff is that autobiographical, unless she really was in a relationship with wrestler John Cena, or really did get into a relationship with a heroic arthroscopic surgeon (here played by Bill Hader), only to skronk things up because of commitment issues.
Since the opening minutes of the film have the jerk father explaining to his daughters that monogamy is unnatural and for chumps on the eve of divorcing their mother, we are lead to believe that all of Amy’s issues regarding relationships are because, siding with her dad over their mum, presumably, she takes his words to heart.
In the montage of heck that occurs early on in the flick, it’s meant to establish Amy’s credentials as a drunk – dope smoking fuck up who sleeps with whoever she wants whenever she wants and gives no thought to the point of sticking around with any particular person for that long.
Words of wisdom for young people, surely. Many of us spent our twenties like that. When you’re still doing it in your thirties and forties, well, lame squares tend to look down their noses at you.
She’s also pretty selfish in bed, hilariously pretending to be asleep just after getting what she wants, but hey, why not. Women have been putting up with the reverse for soooooo long.
Despite working at a crappy tabloid magazine, despite being a journalist, Amy makes a point of clarifying that her character is quite openly ignorant of whatever the hell is going on in the world if it doesn’t have anything to do with drinking or shagging. She has a boyfriend (former wrestler and consummate mountain of meat John Cena, who is quite funny), but shags whoever on the side.
When this leads to conflict with the gigantic slab of prime rib, she immediately and sloppily ends things, because she’s also, you know, drunk and stoned, probably.
That’s the way of things, that’s her way with things. No exclusivity, and at the slightest difficulty, bail. Bail like your life depends on it.
I’m not sure how she can actually function at her job, but somehow her editor (an almost unrecognisable to most people Tilda Swinton, who is all fake tan and Cockney insults) gives her a story to pursue completely outside of her wheelhouse. Why? Well, only Judd Apatow can tell you. Far as I can tell the only reason the central relationship has to be between a journalist who hates sports and a sports surgeon is because Apatow wanted there to be an excuse for celebrity cameos like that of LeBron James.
Now, mind you, I’m not complaining, because LeBron is quite funny in this, probably funnier than almost everyone else with the exception of Amy and Tilda. It’s just that that stuff (and especially a terrible, completely out of nowhere section where LeBron, Marv Alpert, Chris Everett Lloyd and Mathew Broderick for some reason have to counsel Bill Hader’s character, which is agonisingly unfunny) seems less about Amy’s story than it is about Apatow’s filmmaking standbys.
The parts that are recognisably Amy have to do with her passive-aggressive relationship with her sister (Brie Larson), who, despite their closeness, rejected both their father’s ways and his awful life advice and tries to live life as a decent person. Amy’s mockery of her for settling, and her dweebish husband (Mike Birbiglia) and their son is funny, but it also tries to unsuccessfully mask Amy’s fears about commitment and abandonment.
To reiterate the bleeding obvious: Amy Schumer is very funny, and both here and in her tv series a lot of the humour is provoked by the fears projected onto women by society and the media. It’s also intensely about the fears women themselves have, whether they’re reasonable or insane fears. The more personal fears Amy keeps projecting and scoring laughs from come from the ideas about whether she’s worthy of being loved. Yes, she can seem to be obsessed with representations of women in media, and also with ‘raunchy’ humour, but since that’s a lazy label, it also doesn’t resonate as much as the fear stuff does.
Yes, this is a romantic comedy, a very standard romantic comedy that follows a lot of the standard romantic comedy beats. In fact it’s so standard it’s practically predictable, which isn’t something you can usually say about anything Schumer does.
This is, after all, the comedian that devoted an entire episode of her show to a pseudo-remake of 12 Angry Men where the angry men in question argue about whether Amy herself is too ugly and unfuckable to be allowed to be on tv.
Some of the words she puts in people’s mouths to describe herself in the harshest, most misogynistic and horrible ways… it goes beyond pre-emptive self-deprecation and into the realms of something new. This is not a shrinking violet on or off the screen.
Still, she tempers a lot of her usual self-directed viciousness to make her humour and her persona fit into Trainwreck's rom-com format, and as such it also relegates her love interest Hader to the supportive, straight-man role. For all her fears and exasperations, he’s just there being the ploddingly ‘good’ guy who puts up with all her shenanigans until she learns to let someone in because SHE DESERVES LOVE TOOOOOOO…..
Or something like that. The one moment where it varies is when the protagonist’s love interest finds out his lady love has, shock horror, had many lovers. Being the accepting, understanding sensitive chap that he is, Aaron eventually fights his insecurities and finds it within his heart to forgive Amy for all of her sexy times.
And Amy’s all like, “Fuck that, girlfriend, I ain’t got nothing to apologise for.”
Ultimately, she’s making the “Sorry That I’m Not Sorry” non-apology of awesome women everywhere, from Edna Krabapel and a very different Amy from Chasing Amy all those years ago.
And she’s absolutely right, and that’s great, but when was the last time a male character had to apologise for not having anything to apologise for when it came to sleeping with bunches and bunches of women? Oh wait, no, that wouldn’t work because It’s a Man’s World, sorry, forgot that little tidbit.
I get that the more grounded and dramatic elements (the ones that have nothing to do with the rom-com elements, and everything to do with the father) are the ones most true to Amy’s own life, and the thing is, while they might not have been so funny, they felt like they were worth more of our time rather than the other Apatovian bullshit that filled up screen. It mostly works together, but at the risk of sounding overly and unnecessarily critical, it would be nice if Amy would also try to play someone slightly more credible as a journalist, since it’s not considered professional to fuck the person you’re profiling unless that person is Mick Jagger, in which case it’s mandatory.
I had a few laughs from this, which is more than I can say about the last couple of Apatow movies, and it entrenches Amy as being at the top of a great big heap of current comedians (not just female comedians, but all of them, you sexist jerk) not only in terms of successfulness but moreso as someone who can get a lot of laughs out of pointing out many of the poignant and idiotic expectations between the genders.
Thankfully, Trainwreck did not turn out to be the trainwreck I feared it would be.
8 times she never drinks out of a bottle in a brown paper bag not once in the flick out of 10
“You have to. It's like when I decided to go back to Cleveland. I wasn't totally sure they were going to welcome me back, man. But they did. They welcomed me back with open arms and an open heart.” – oh, yes they did, LeBron, they opened their arms and hearts and also gave you like $42 million to come back, and come back you did, bless your little cotton socks - Trainwreck