Directed by Judd Apatow.
2015. Rated R, 124 minutes.
Our titular train wreck is Amy (Schumer). She hangs out binge drinking most nights and sleeps with who she wants, when she wants, despite the fact she has a supposedly steady boyfriend. He loves her, but she’s rather apathetic about him. She is also a writer for a Maxim or FHM style men’s magazine. During a staff meeting she is tasked with doing an article on Aaron (Hader), a well-known sports doctor with a number of high profile clients. She offers up a bit of a protest by letting everyone know how much she despises sports. Amy is told by her editor Dianna, played by a nigh unrecognizable Tilda Swinton, that that’s why she’s perfect for the job. So off she goes to interview the good doctor. They hit it off and he falls for her. She really likes him, too, but has serious commitment issues. Aaron trying to get close to Amy while she pushes him away ensues.
Director Judd Apatow follows his usual template to a tee with this one. Early parts of the movie are flushed with raunchiness in an attempt to get us laughing before settling into typical rom-com mode, and the whole thing runs too long. Our protagonist is an immature hedonist and surrounded by enablers who give crappy advice. The difference between this and his normal fare is that the main character is a female which, in the long run, makes not one bit of difference to the plot. An unintended difference is that the raunchiness doesn’t work quite as well as it once did. There are a few laugh out loud moments, but more moments that thud loudly as they crash and burn. The typical rom-com stuff is just that, typical. A lot of fat trimmed from both aspects could have dropped this from its bulky two hours and change to a lean one hundred minutes.
If all of those things were fixed the protagonist would still be an issue. She is completely lacking any of the traits the overwhelming majority of us find desirable in a mate. Worse than that, she’s not willing to even pretend she has them. Yet, within a short space of time, two men become so enamored with her they desperately want to commit to her, prior to her obligatory redemption. Instead of getting the warm and fuzzies whenever one of them pipes up about wanting to settle down with her, we shake our heads and call them an idiot. We applaud the first boyfriend, played by a not as bad as expected John Cena, for moving on and dodging that bullet. We pity Aaron and wonder what kinds of skanks he was hanging out with before to make Amy seem like a great catch.
There were some parts of Trainwreck that worked. Scenes involving Amy’s family were easily the best this film had to offer. Those with her father gave us both the funniest and saddest moments, courtesy of a perfect supporting turn by Colin Quinn. However, it’s the subplot of the relationship with her sister Kim, and the performance by Brie Larson in that role that gives the movie its heart. It is only in these moments when Amy feels like an actual human being. This is when Schumer’s portrayal has some weight to it. One other aspect of that works even though it could have been scrapped altogether is the intermittent appearances of basketball superstar LeBron James as himself. It’s not that he’s particularly good, because he’s not. It’s that he is clearly having a blast just being in a movie. His fun is contagious.
The issue that has risen up around the movie is whether or not it is pro-feminist. It’s nothing of the sort. Maybe the case can be made that it is if we boil things down to the lowest common denominator. Simply put, she is free to be as big a jerk as any man. She calls it being sexually liberated. This is fine, but not necessarily feminist. At best, it’s a reminder that the double-standard associated with such behavior is antiquated and pointless. Some have taken the simple fact of Amy’s gender to mean the film is somehow pro-woman. In reality, it’s quite the opposite. There is nothing powerful nor empowering about her. She’s actually quite weak. At that staff meeting early in the film the potential topics for articles bandied about range from masturbating at work to the effect of garlic in a man’s diet on the taste of his semen. Since she’s been a writer there for some time we can safely assume she’s written similar articles before. Thanks to a later diatribe on the myths and male fantasies perpetuated by cheerleaders we get the sense she could write some interesting think-pieces. Yet, she’s content to write fluff pieces for a magazine that never goes any deeper than pleasures of the flesh. Hardly progressive. She’s also a reckless alcoholic. Her redemption comes not because she had some great personal revelation on her own. It’s to regain the favor of a man. In the process, she willingly behaves in a way she previously abhorred (cheerleading) because she figures it will help her chances. The message becomes the same as the one people have been raging against for a really long time: it is okay to compromise your beliefs if it will help you get that “special” guy. Forgive me if I’m not feeling the girl-power, nor the movie.