‘Trainwreck’ a Different Romantic Comedy

Amy Schumer and Bill Hader.

I am recommending the movie “Trainwreck”, written by and starring Comedian Amy Schumer.

I consider Schumer’s show on Comedy Central to be “must-DVR” content because it’s smart humor, yet I’ll admit I was on the fence about going to see “Trainwreck” (vs waiting for home video) because even though the trailer looked funny, I sort of presumed Hollywood would churn out another one of those silly bubblegum films we’ve grown accustomed to seeing with Katherine Heigl as the chick who spends 90 minutes arguing with some dreamboat just to smooch him at the end and ride off into the sunset. Just by my describing it as a “romantic comedy” in the title of this article, you were turned off a little bit, weren’t you?

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Trainwreck stars Amy Schumer and Bill Hader.

To be honest, I almost went to see “Antman” instead, but the senseless shooting at a movie theater in Lafayette, Louisiana (just days after a shooting that killed five here in Chattanooga, Tenn.) during a showing of the comedy left me feeling compelled to become an advocate for “Trainwreck” by spending my dollars on it. It would be a shame, I reasoned, if some madman wrecked Schumer’s promising film career because Hollywood considered it a safer (literally) bet to churn out more big budget crap like Adam Sandler’s “Pixels”.

“Trainwreck”, as it turns out, is more like a long-form version of Schumer’s TV show than anything else. It is a feminist comedy in the sense that she has the freedom to be more than a shallow stereotype confined to limited options. In the same way that “Star Trek” tackled racism by masking it in science fiction during the sixties, Schumer promotes her feminism by wrapping the absurdities of life in humor – which is easier to swallow, as a man, than being lectured.

I also liked the fact that “Trainwreck” reflects a world where douchebags are celebrated in the single scene culture and rewarded with meaningless sex for it, but there are also good guys out there who aren’t presented as being merely wolves in waiting. It restored my hope a lil bit that I can actually be a nice guy in a shallow world yet not end up forever alone for it. If you enjoyed the romance between Kristen Wiig and the likeable cop played by Chris O’Dowd in 2011’s “Bridesmaids”, you’ll more than likely enjoy the similar love story in “Trainwreck”.

As you might expect from an Amy Schumer unrestrained by the TV network censors, “Trainwreck” is extremely raunchy (not a bad thing in my book) with the heroine being a career woman who hops from bed to bed the way we’re used to seeing single men do in the urban jungle. She’s stripped down to her bra in one of several brief sex scenes, but we mostly see male nudity.

I’ve always thought it is sexist and unfair that Schumer gets branded as slutty just because she talks about sex in an honest way. Growing up, I actually thought that sex was something women went along with or put up with rather than something they enjoy and seek out, but this movie isn’t afraid to show us that females crave intimate contact just like men. Yet the movie seems self-aware as if Schumer wrote it to explain that she’s not as one-dimensional as her Comedy Central marketing suggests. There’s a funny scene where she leaves a table full of fake types in stunned silence before one of them utters something similarly provocative and Amy states, “I like HER!” Well, vulgarity may be Schumer’s niche, but I feel the same way because of her openness, which is refreshing and overdue in my opinion.

The movie also seems to mock our expectations by showing us a scene in a theater where Daniel Radcliffe and Marisa Tomei are characters in a corny film going through the same tired cliches we’ve seen before.

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Schumer’s character, also named Amy, longs to have that committed, stable relationship, but only on a subconscious level (so we don’t spend an hour listening to her whine about the lack of it). In fact, she openly mocks her sister for being married to a dork and being stepmom to a child who is just asking to get his ass beat by bullies on the playground. Schumer isn’t looking for love but rather kind of stumbles into it like stepping on bubble gum that some asshole just dropped on the pavement. From my experience, that’s sort of the way it actually happens when that combination of angst and butterflies overwhelmes you.

Amy has to confront her fear of commitment when she meets a “boring” sports surgeon played by Bill Hader. She presumes that hooking up with him will just lead to another night of meaningless sex, but she finds that he isn’t just another hound looking to press the flesh. She seems surprised and congratulatory when he isn’t totally lame in the sack. She hangs out with him because he’s nice, but she resists labeling it as a relationship until Hader points out that they might as well be boyfriend/girlfriend. When he tries to comfort her in a difficult time by confessing that he loves her, she reacts as if he just called her fat.

Poisoned by her philandering father’s early lessons about the futility of monogamy — the polar opposite of the type of brainwashing we normally see where women are convinced by Disney that some prince will save them some day — she spends most of the movie enjoying Hader’s companionship while waiting for the inevitable fiery ending. In American cinema, we’ve been trained to expect that things will end in disaster for any promiscuous female. Remember those slasher flicks where only the virgin escaped Jason Vorhees or Michael Myers? This story suggests that a woman’s past wild escapades do not prohibit her from future happiness. If you don’t think that’s an appropriate message, then you probably also disagree with a woman wearing a white dress at her second wedding.

Amy Schumer and Bill Hader.
Nice guys can be fun too.

As with most Judd Apatow-directed films, “Trainwreck” keeps us entertained by loading lots of interesting side characters who could conceivably be extended to have their own movies. There are fun moments with Colin Quinn as Amy’s grumpy dad, Dave Attell as a street bum, Vanessa Bayer as Amy’s moron co-worker, a virtually unrecognizeable Tilda Swinton as her emotionally detached boss, Ezra Miller as a young intern (with a hilarious scene out of left field), Chris Evert and Matthew Broderick as themselves, and impressive extended scenes with basketball stars Amar’e Stoudemire and LeBron James as themselves. I was also very impressed with wrestler John Cena who really put himself out there in a fearless way and produced some of the best laughs of the whole movie. Brie Larson is also really good as Amy’s sister.

I expected to laugh while watching “Trainwreck”, but there were also some surprisingly touching scenes where I found myself on the verge of tears. No, I didn’t cry. I am a man; we aren’t allowed to weep in the dark unless we are watching “Old Yeller”.

“Trainwreck” says as much about men as it does about modern women. Just as it is unrealistic for men to think we are all going to end up with supermodels, Schumer is telling her sisters that the bad boys aren’t supposed to be part of the fabric of their everyday lives. As the sister says in one scene, “You don’t want to be with the guy you had the best sex of your life with… He’s in prison right now.”

I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I’ll just say that the movie transcends the normal male/female stereotypes that make watching movies so damn predictable these days. Like Schumer’s character who self-sabotages a good thing because of her mindset, I kept waiting for Hader to turn into a heel who has to beg her to take him back. Instead, it is the hard-partying Amy who has to grow up. This isn’t done in a condescending way.

So yes. I enjoyed this movie a lot. More than I expected to. I’m sure “Antman” is a fun time, but it will have to wait a few days.

We may never know what compelled the 59-year-old shooter in Lafayette to choose a “Trainwreck” showing to massacre complete strangers. If this man – described in reports as a Tea Party sympathizer — selected the movie because he resented Schumer’s take on gender roles (purely speculative on my part) or just picked that particular theater at random, perhaps his heart might have been touched a bit if only he had sat through the show.

 

– Steven Stiefel is a photographer, copywriter, and marketing professional in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He studied film theory at Auburn University.