Yo, Ho, Ho and a Bottle of Dumb: A Review of Amy Schumer’s Trainwreck

Amy Schumer just flew in to her first major film debut and boy, are her arms tired!

Ba-dum-dum.

Like that joke?

Then you’ll love Trainwreck

Written by Schumer and directed by Judd Apatow.  Schumer, of Inside Amy Schumer fame, a TV comedy sketch show featuring on-point skits with a feminist bent, has catapulted into the spotlight as of late due to thought-provoking scenes such as the one featuring Tina Fey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Patricia Arquette in which Louis-Dreyfus celebrates her Hollywood last “fu…able” day. This smart, wry style of comedy is absent in Trainwreck, which follows …surprise, surprise…. a magazine journalist named Amy as she smokes, drinks, and sleeps her way around New York City. Thanks in part to the advice proffered by her father when she was young, “Monogamy isn’t realistic,” Amy is convinced that her lifestyle is that of the “new modern woman,” and bemoans her younger sister Kim’s choice to settle down with a seemingly dowdy man and his fastidious son, Allister.

All this changes when she meets a young sports doctor named Aaron Conners, played by Bill Hader. Not impressed by sports or Aaron’s career, Amy easily seduces the doctor and then finds herself in an uncomfortable place – a monogamous relationship with someone she loves. I’ll bet you can guess what happens next – they fight, they break up, a certain “out of control” female cleans up her act and wins her man back, just in the nick of time. It’s a little like Bridget Jones’ Diary without the cute British accents.

In terms of plot, this movie gets a D. Though Schumer does veer into interesting territory with the difficult relationship between her character and her MS-afflicted racist father, played by Colin Quinn, the subplot dissolves quickly when he dies, leaving her to ruminate on the “error” of her ways and the righteousness of her sister’s decision to marry and have children.

Rather than fully develop an original storyline, the film balances instead on a thin veneer of one-liners, creating a sense of being at a comedy club rather than a movie. And the one-liners? After a year of race politics in the news, the racial jokes throughout the movie felt out of touch. Two white people arguing over how many black friends they have? A coworker saying to a black doctor or nurse, “I used to have a black boyfriend”? A scene of Aaron and Amy in which the voiceover mentions something about being “the whitest couple ever”? Why the apologies? Creating an intelligent and complex comedy featuring ethnically and racially diverse main characters isn’t rocket science and it is a REASON for never having to say you’re sorry. (see Amira & Sam or 2 Days in Paris)

Perhaps in a nod to the incoherent stream of jibes, Amy’s boss, played brilliantly by the underutilized Tilda Swinton, says to Amy, “Is this your one woman show, now?” The comedy club experience is heightened by a who’s-who of cast members and sports stars that filter through the movie. Was this supposed to be a film starring Amy Schumer or a vehicle to peddle the Mets, Matthew Broderick, and LeBron James? It’s unclear why so many stars grace this film when they’re not needed and detract from the possibility of a heartfelt story. (And speaking of casting, apparently it was assumed that no one going to see Trainwreck would ever WANT to see We Need to Talk about Kevin because casting Swinton as an erratic boss and Ezra Miller as the magazine’s intern was a troubling move)

I was surprised by how awful this movie was when it had been hyped so fanatically. Equal to the messiness of the plot is Apatow’s direction. Scenes were edited chaotically, many shots were too narrow or too wide, and the pauses between “bits” left awkward space. Don’t get me wrong – the audience on opening weekend was full of youngish women and their dates, many laughing hysterically. But I like a little meat with my potatoes, and this film didn’t give an ounce.

Not all films featuring strong female leads have to be feminist, but they should contain interesting and dynamic characters who wind up more empowered, not less, by the time the credits roll. These films should show the varied sides of a character, not just tits and ass, which is what we ended up with by the last scene. In her bid to gain Aaron back and to prove how much she respects sports and cheerleaders, Amy throws on a cheerleading outfit and performs a haphazard routine, finishing in a spectacular face dive into a mat. This wins the heart of Aaron, as does the promise that Amy “will try to do better” – no smoking, drinking, or reckless sex. Cue the lights. The audience shouldn’t feel that it’s been duped into a 1950s Father Knows Best episode when it expected, and championed, something more. It’s surprising that a movie like Lelio’s Gloria (2013), in which Gloria’s smoking, drinking, and casual sex lifestyle empowers even through heartache, is little known while this jumble of chastisement is emblazoned on every ad surface available.

The one shining moment of the film was the “fake” movie shown several times as various characters attempted to act their way across this celluloid disaster. “Dogwalker” features a jaded and moody dog walker (Daniel Radcliffe) in New York who meets a lonely older woman ( Marisa Tomei), full of sexual, dog-related one-liners. This overly serious and therefore hilarious black-and-white film ended up being the movie I wanted to see. Maybe next time.

Jen Gyurisin is currently eating a ham sandwich. Jealous?
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Yo, Ho, Ho and a Bottle of Dumb: A Review of Amy Schumer’s Trainwreck

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