Friday, March 18, 2016

Trainwreck


Directed by Judd Apatow.

2015. Rated R, 124 minutes.
Cast:
Amy Schumer
Bill Hader
Brie Larson
Colin Quinn
John Cena
Tilda Swinton
Ezra Miller
Vanessa Bayer
Mike Birbiglia
LeBron James

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.

28 comments:

  1. I haven't seen it yet, and frankly I don't know if I ever will, but it doesn't sound pro-woman at all. Nor it sounds like one of the best comedies of last year.

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    1. Yeah, just didn't find this one feminist nor funny. Then again, I seem to be in the minority.

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  2. This was a movie I really liked (up until the last 20 minutes where it drags in classic Appatow fashion) when I saw it in theaters, but then I watched it a 2nd time on DVD and I didn't laugh very much at all. It's sad when John Cena is the highlight of the movie. John fucking Cena.

    I don't think this is really a "feminist" movie per se anyways. It wasn't really trying to make a deep statement about anything, it was just trying to get us to laugh. I like Schumer and her TV show, but this just doesn't hold up.

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    1. Yeah, the last act of most of his movies drag badly. Dude needs an editor that will stand up to him. And John Cena was good.

      I honestly don't think the movie was really trying to make a feminist statement, but lots of people came out touting it as such so I felt like I should address the issue.

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  3. YES! That is an excellent review and I agree with everything in it. I loathe Amy Schumer and that character here, which I assume is heavily based on her. She is vulgar, not funny at all and just obnoxious. There is nothing empowering in her talking about her vagina or being all around gross. The movie was only watchable thanks to Bill Hader and Tilda Swinton.

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    1. Thanks! Since Schumer wrote it, I think we can safely assume it's heavily based on her.

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  4. I find Amy Schumer's stand-up funny, but recently she tends to rely on a lot of the same ol' self-deprecating humor which barely fit her to begin with, and even less since she went full Hollywood. This movie was, in the end, not nearly funny enough to overcome its flaws. The last paragraph of your review is PERFECT and I agree with every word. I do not understand the level of praise this got. At all.

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    1. I can take or leave her stand-up. I've found it occasionally funny and occasionally dreadful. As I was watching this I was baffled that this was supposed to be the best comedy of 2015. Spy, among others, was far better than this.

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  5. I'm not really eager to see this. One is my disdain towards John Cena as a public figure and who he really is as a person. I just flat out hate that piece of shit though I would rather have him main event WrestleMania instead of that Samoan Sissy they're trying to shove down everyone's throats.

    The second is Judd Apatow. I do think he's funny but I've noticed that some of his films as a director like Knocked Up don't exactly hold up and I found out why. They tend to get very long and it does get formulaic as it was one of the reasons why I couldn't get into Funny People and why I fucking hated This is 40. He really needs an editor to simplify things but also to not go into dramatic mode in the third act.

    The third is Amy Schumer whom I really don't know anything about at all and I'm just not interested.

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    1. Your devotion to wrestling always amuses me, lol. I have no idea who the Samoan person is you're talking about.

      I totally agree about Apatow. All of his movies are overly long, get really formulaic in the final act, and DRAG. Don't know if you read any of the comments above, but in response to one I said the same thing you did. He needs an editor that will really stand up to him.

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  6. Your last paragraph sums up the biggest reason I disliked this movie (apart from it being painfully unfunny and unoriginal). That she works at a FHM type magazine blows my mind... don't those magazines plaster half naked woman on their covers?? Such a ridiculous movie, and really well analysed my friend

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    1. Yes, they do plaster half naked women on their covers and all over the interior of their mag. Thanks!

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  7. Well, I find Amy Schumer fucking hilarious, so there's that. I'd say I solidly liked this movie. I found it to be quite underwhelming for many of the same reasons as you. It sort of copped out after its pretty brilliant early scenes and became exactly that which it presented itself as being against. Judd Apatow needs to get out of his own damn way. He could be a great director. He has a good visual sense, in my opinion, he just lacks in ability to edit himself and, in turn, his movies. That "big cameo" scene was absolutely ludicrous and totally out of place. Pretty much ruined the last act for me and it sadly never recovered.

    As for the feminist thing...I never got that vibe at all from this movie. But as far as the Schumer character being "desirable as a mate"...I don't know, man. She seems like a lot of fun to hang out with...for the most part. She just has some issues with growing up and giving up the party lifestyle, which is so totally common. Plus, like most romantic comedies, the movie makes her a better person. There is a bit of pretty good, even refreshing, role reversal in this film...the Bill Hader character sort of plays the Manic Pixie Dream Guy to her developmentally arrested wiseass.

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    1. Apatow really needs to get out of his own way. Why he thinks every damn movie is worthy of a two-plus hour runtime is beyond me.

      The feminist thing...I am more addressing the people who decided this was a pro-woman movie rather than the movie itself saying so. As for Schumer's character, being a lot of fun to hang out with doesn't really translate into the one you should be falling in love with. Yes, the role reversal was nice, but the novelty of it wore off pretty quickly, for me.

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    2. I have more fun with my wife than anyone I've ever met. We had fun together, and that's what did it. Granted, she doesn't have a binge-drinking problem. That would be me. But when you take a chance on someone you, for some reason, love spending time with him/her because he/she is hilarious and witty and successful (despite a few daddy issues), you go for it. You help that person become a better person because YOU, subjectively, see something in that person. That's the message of this movie. Underwhelmed as I was by it, I still found it endearing in some ways.

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    3. I get that. I have lots of fun with my wife, too. However, when someone is a total...um...trainwreck...and completely cold-hearted about every interaction with other humans, it's kind of hard see myself falling in love because she makes a great drinking partner. To each his own, I guess.

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  8. God, I hated this movie (what I saw of it). I rarely give up on a film after paying for it on Amazon, but I turned this one off, figuring my time was better spent... well... doing just about anything.

    This is a wonderful review, and I think you took a balanced view of the film. I especially liked your commentary on the alleged "feminist" aspects of the movie. It was quite the opposite. All she seemed to think about was men and sex. (Even at work, as you pointed out, she's suggesting writing articles about semen. Definitely not doing well on the Bechdel test. LOL.) They just flipped it by making her predatory and selfish, the way guys are "supposed" to behave.

    In one of the early scenes, she was hooking up with a guy, and she selfishly got him to satisfy her needs before pretending to fall asleep. I assume it was a take-off on the way guys allegedly get their kicks and roll over and fall asleep, unconcerned about what their partner is feeling. I guess it could've been perceived as funny. But I just found it annoying and skeevy and kind of sad. And I did not get the appeal of the lead actress or her character.

    Even Brie Larson couldn't persuade me to hang in there for the duration.

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    1. Funny that you gave up on it, but understandable.

      Thanks. After I kept hearing about how feminist it was I was sorely disappointed.

      That was the very first scene. Not a great start on the way to making her the least bit likable.

      Brie tried, bless her heart.

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  9. Heh, I have no interest at all in seeing this and from your summation here sounds like I'm not missing much. I feel that the *girl power* message here is misleading as it's still all about getting the man she wants. It's just packaged in a crude, vulgar movie but it's no different from banal rom-coms that has such a bad rep. Can't believe Tilda Swinton is in this!

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  10. I couldn't finish this movie. My dad (who's infamous for falling asleep during movies dozed off thirty minutes in, and I had no desire to watch the reat.) Amy Schumer's character is a horrible, unfunny person, and I couldn't figure out what Bill Hader saw in her. The film itself just sort of fell flat for me. Spot on review, there's nothing about this woman that would make her a desirable partner and I just felt kind of bad for Hader's character.

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    1. "I couldn't figure out what Bill Hader saw in her." The single biggest problem with the movie.

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  11. Not seen it not wanted to, but a brilliantly argued piece. Among your best work.

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    1. Thanks! I'm takng this as a compliment of the highest order, of course, and not as the best of a bad lot sort of thing.

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  12. I still haven't seen this one - I just don't "feel" the current crop of female comediennes are all that amusing (Melissa McCarthy, Schumer etc) and this one just appears like I'm going to struggle with it!

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    1. I like McCarthy, but she's hit-or-miss with me. Schumer just doesn't really do it for me, at least not in this movie.

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  13. I didn't enjoy this film either. I actually felt like it descended into a standup comedy show. The jokes flew in too rapidly and with no story to link them. I thought John Cena was the standout and that 2015 really was a great year for him. He was in three films and stole the show at times. I actually hope to see him more. Maybe he could recreate the success of Dwayne Johnson.

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    1. I wouldn't have minded that if the jokes were funny. They weren't. Not real sure about Cena, but I did like him, here.

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