Film Review: Trainwreck
“Monogamy isn’t realistic” is the mantra that accompanies Trainwreck’s opening minutes. Young Amy and her little sister Kim are being taught by their father, the realities of his extra-marital affairs, illustrating his points using the girls’ dolls. “What if I told you you could only play with one doll for the rest of your life? What if you wanted to play with a stewardess doll? Or a slightly overweight waitress doll?” Presumably scarred, modern-day Amy (Amy Schumer) is a promiscuous drunk who just can’t commit, while her sister Kim (Brie Larson) is married with a baby on the way, and all this while their father’s health is deteriorating rapidly. The “trainwreck” that is Amy continues full speed ahead however until she meets Aaron (Bill Hader), knee doctor to the stars, and the man who will set to tame her wild ways.
Trainwreck is written by, and stars the incomparable Amy Schumer. It wasn’t until May of this year that I was first introduced to her particular brand of brash, offensive, unapologetic humour with this fantastic ode to Friday Night Lights, “Football Town Nights” (from Inside Amy Schumer), a quite honestly brilliant blend of parody and social criticism. In this particular sketch, a high school football coach in a new town tries to no avail to reason with his consent-confused team. “Clear eyes, full hearts, don’t rape.” Meanwhile Amy, the Coach’s wife, hangs back and offers empty words of encouragement, while her white wine glasses grow in comically large increments. The sketch acts as a Steubenville reminder, and as an exaggeration of the God-like, untouchable mentality that can manifest in high school footballers.Trainwreck, which is Schumer’s first foray into film, contains much of the same elements as Football Town Nights — sports metaphors, copious amounts of white wine, and sexual deviance (not the good kind). But somehow Trainwreck lacks that Amy Schumer spark.
Where Inside Amy Schumer has proven time and time again that it will not shy away from challenging heteronormative agendas that have become prevalent, or dare I say, standard, in stand-up and sketch comedy, Trainwreck unfortunately gets side-tracked. Even with Judd Apatow directing, I still expected that audacious “Amy” edge in Trainwreck, and instead I was met with humour which embraced the Hollywood stereotypes I had hoped it would smother. The problem is thatTrainwreck would rather demonize than satirize. Amy can’t have care-free sex with whomever she wants guilt-free — she has to come to the realization that she’s “broken”, and that’s she’s “afraid” she’ll never be a domestic goddess like her little sister. Even Colin, the man who finally manages to “tame” her admits that the number of guys Amy has slept with bothers him, which we’re meant to see this as a source of shame for Amy, instead of a petulant complaint from a jealous boyfriend.
The easiest way to explain the tonal shift from Amy Schumer’s stand-up to Trainwreck, is that Trainwreck is light on the analysis, and heavy on the Apatow (Sorry Judd! I still love Freaks and Geeks!). But then you must be thinking, “but he directed Trainwreck! Of course it’s going to feel like an Apatow film”. Well, sure. But if it’s hard to separate Hitchcock from blondes and voyeurism, likewise distancing Apatow from average joe’s and weed is just as difficult. Amy Schumer wrote Trainwreck for Judd Apatow’s direction, so it’s not unusual that she would play to his tropes and preferences, it’s just a shame that the film doesn’t feel as authentic and ground-breaking as Inside Amy Schumer has proven itself to be. Additionally, a trend in Apatow’s films is a stellar first half and a slowly devolving second half, and Trainwreck unfortunately, is no different and blows its load a bit too early so to speak.
But let’s say we were to strip away all those stereotype-challenging, anti slut-shaming expectations I might have had about Trainwreck. What we’re left with are jokes, which in spite of my previous qualms, actually land about 95% of the time. And surprisingly, a lot of those jokes comes from LeBron James (playing himself). Funnily enough, Amy says at one point in Trainwreck that sports are dumb and the people who like them are dumb, so when half of the jokes are sports-related, I can’t help but feel myself torn between frustration, and also a sort of secret happiness. Frustration, because I know nothing (Jon Snuh) about sports and I hate not getting the joke, and then a secret little happiness because I imagine the LeBrons and Cenas of Trainwreck as sparkly little enticements for those who would perhaps be turned off by a more woman-centric film. And if that’s true, then maybe we can consider Amy’s original burn as mocking jabs at those athletically-inclined people who will see Trainwreck just based on sports references.
But then in most sports-related conversations, I’m the one smiling and nodding and saying with false confidence things like “Sports. Totally.” and then throwing in a local hockey name just for good measure. So what do I know? Well this is just to inform you that this writer has 1) heard of LeBron James but 2) knows nothing further about him and his professional career and 3) didn’t realize who John Cena was until hours after watching Trainwreck. And for those reasons, and many more, my reservations regarding the enormous amount of time dedicated to sports jokes will be tabled until I actually get a clue. That being said, I can appreciate, and safely say that Cena’s “pillow talk”, which included such panty-droppers as “I’m gonna put my protein powder in you” are some of the greatest comedic moments of Trainwreck. But if you’re expecting the gender-norms challenging and rule-breaking comedy of This is Amy Schumer, be careful, because you’re only setting yourself up for disappointment.
3 out of 5 stars