Film Reviews

MECHANICAL EYE – <i>Trainwreck</i> (2015)

MECHANICAL EYE – Trainwreck (2015)

Claire Graman

August 11th, 2015

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Women are funny, seems to be Hollywood’s recent revelation — in the midst of heightened concerns about the representation of women in television and film — with the success of comedians like Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and now Amy Schumer. But the truth is, women have been funny for a long time. Schumer’s infamous “I’m probably, like, 160 pounds right now, and I can catch a dick whenever I want” can be seen as an updated Mae West line. So what does Schumer add to the continuing dialogue on women, comedy, and gender roles?

Written by Schumer and directed by Judd Apatow, Trainwreck, like the romantic comedies it parodies, is set in New York and follows a magazine writer who falls for a man she’s assigned to do a story on. In this film, however, it’s clear that both the magazine, Snuff, and the writer, Amy (Schumer), have deep problems. Amy is the titular trainwreck. She is completely selfish, as we see in the hilarious first sex scene, and only desires noncommittal sex, alcohol, and weed. Underneath that is anxiety over her perfect sister, Kim (Brie Larson), and ailing father, Gordon (Colin Quinn), the one who ingrained in Amy the idea that “monogamy isn’t realistic.” Amy’s ideas change as she slowly falls in love with the subject of one of her articles, Aaron (Bill Hader), a renowned sports surgeon and overall nice guy, but can she actually handle a romantic relationship?

Schumer’s self-conscious comedy fits well with Apatow’s general oeuvre of films about adults struggling to be adults, and fans of Knocked Up or The 40-Year-Old Virgin won’t be disappointed. Like other Apatow films, the plot is more of a framework to support various comedic situations, probably because most of Schumer’s experience comes from stand-up and sketch comedy. As a result, the film is slow in parts and meandering, with a mix of plot-developing scenes with little comedy and comedic scenes with little plot. This large flaw, however, is also a strength, in that actors playing minor characters are given room to improvise and steal the spotlight. In fact, the funniest moments come from these smaller roles: Tilda Swinton as Amy’s domineering boss, John Cena as Amy’s earnest, but unaware boyfriend, and wealthy basketball star LeBron James as version of himself who refuses to pay more than his half of a $30 lunch bill.

Other funny moments come in Amy’s negotiation of femininity, whether confronted with hypersexualized basketball cheerleaders or the undersexed, Stepford-esque attendants at her sister’s baby shower. Yet both these scenes are blips on her journey to being a more mature, less judgmental person, rather than profound statements on gender and society. Trainwreck isn’t a radical feminist text, because Amy’s character development is anchored to her ability and willingness to maintain a serious relationship. Another Apatow-produced film, Bridesmaids, avoids this by portraying love as one of many needs, like friendship and a meaningful career. Yet, there is a playfulness to Schumer’s humor that serves Trainwreck well; the jokes are vulgar, but never seem forced.

Really, Trainwreck’s most radical assertion is also the most obvious: that women can make films, even raunchy sex comedies, just as well as men can.

Trainwreck continues its run at Regal Valley River Center Stadium 15 and Cinemark 17. Click here for showtimes.

Claire Graman is an English PhD candidate at the University of Oregon. She studies history, film, and when the two collide. Mechanical Eye is an irregular column in which she provides critical analyses of films screening locally.

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