So, firstly: I’m a fan of Amy Schumer. I’ve followed all three seasons of her fantastic and feminist Comedy Central sketch show and laugh, wince, nod and balk at the inappropriate, sticky and icky situations her often clueless characters find themselves in. I think she’s talented and deserves all of the hype and accolades her bitingly funny work has yielded and was excited at the idea of a movie where she’s the centre and driving force as writer and star. That’s why the end result is so disappointing. SPOILERS HEREIN SO CONSIDERED YOURSELF WARNED.
Her comedy is daring—the “12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer” episode is the ultimate example of self-deprecation wrapped in a bold send-up of gender politics in general and Hollywood’s sexist machinations in particular—it’s sometimes silly while still poignant, it can get weird and doesn’t always completely work, which is about all anyone can hope for.
That’s why Trainwreck, especially its schlocky second half, is kind of a drag. It starts off promising enough, with our protagonist, also named Amy, telling us via voiceover that her life is pretty rad. She likes having a good time, imbibing on the regular and having no-sleepover sex, thanks to her dad’s indoctrination that monogamy is a myth. Yes, daddy issues are front and centre and played for laughs as she lives the life of the proudly single.
But then she meets THE GUY (Bill Hader), the good times come to an abrupt end and the laughs give way to tears. So much crying for a comedy.
Trainwreck has director Judd Apatow‘s indelicate, sentimental fingerprints all over it and, yes, the party-girl-who-meets-a-new-guy-that-might-just-be-the-one-to-make-her-reconsider-her-loose-and-boozy-ways was never a revolutionary set-up.
But in Schumer’s able hands I had faith that the plot would sidestep the usual conventions but that sappy, happy ending was always coming for us. The drama forces its way into the narrative so forcefully, it threatens to negate all the funny work that comes before it.
Amy’s job woes—doing almost zero advance research for a story on a topic that she’s not familiar with even though a big job promotion hangs in the balance, sleeping with her interview subject while STILL WRITING ABOUT HIM and getting fired for almost having (kinky) sex with the 16-year-old intern—are also laughably glossed over and seem to exist for no other reason than to further the plot, which okay, fine, this is a rom-com.
But it stings when her character admits to her married and pregnant sister (an underused Brie Larson whom you should check out in Short Term 12) that she does want the stability and happy ending she constantly criticizes; it’s just that she’s afraid she can’t get it for herself. It’s an easy out, a disservice to her character, to Schumer the writer and performer and to the audience.
What if she was having fun with men and booze, hit rock bottom and thought, slowing down is a good idea and moderation is smart whether or not there’s a man involved? What if she came to the decision that a committed relationship and family might be nice without the shame about her past? What if she thought she might be better at her job or get a better one because she’s talented enough to deserve it and truly go for it?
The choice to turn her life around felt like a reaction to the issues Bill Hader’s character pointed out to her, not ones she came to her own, and acted as a quick way to get the pieces together for the Grand Gesture to Get Him Back. (At least the Grand Gesture was orchestrated by her and not being done for her.)
While Trainwreck does toy with switching up gender roles (see above PLUS the chubby best friend was replaced by LeBron James) there is no real subversion and ultimately this isn’t the pointed, female-first comedy I was expecting from the woman behind Last F***able Day. Let’s hope that next time she taps a collaborator, it’s someone that knows how best to use her voice, is willing to take chances and go for original, uncomfortable laughs for a movie that we haven’t seen before—I’m still confident Schumer has it in her.