Trainwreck is a romcom as written and directed by Amy Schumer, the American comedy prodigy whose Comedy Central sketch show is properly hilarious and transgressive, from what I’ve seen. Indeed, if nothing else, I beseech you to watch one particular sketch, as viewable on YouTube, where a group of famous Hollywood actresses gather to celebrate one of their number’s ‘last fuckable day’, explained as follows: ‘In every actress’s life, the media decides when you’ve finally reached the point you are not believably fuckable any more….’
So my hopes for this film were sky-high. My hopes were that it would take the standard, misogynist romcom tropes and give them the pitiless thrashing they so deserve. But to say this lacks the courage of its convictions doesn’t get near it, as I’m not even convinced it had any convictions in the first instance. I was not just disappointed. I was crushed.
The film, as directed by Judd Apatow (there’s our first clue, right there), starts promisingly, with a flashback to Amy’s childhood — Amy plays a character called ‘Amy’ — and her philandering father (Colin Quinn), who employs the kids’ dolls to give a lecture on relationships; a lecture that ends with them all reciting the mantra ‘Monogamy is not realistic.’ It’s pretty good. Then we fast-forward 23 years to the Amy of today, who appears to have absorbed her father’s values, and is hard-drinking, hard-swearing and even hard-sexing, I suppose, as her love life amounts to a series of one-night stands. This is her choice, we are meant to believe, and she does not apologise for behaving, well, like a man. But — and this is a massive ‘but’; imagine it in skywriting — the tone is definitely not one of a sister doing it for herself. Amy is bitter, not celebratory, so the tone is: Amy, you’re a mess. And: Amy, get a grip. And: Amy, you just need to meet the right man and settle down. And: Amy, you’re a trainwreck. There’s another clue, right there. It was in the title all along.
Amy does meet a fella, through her work. She is a writer on a men’s magazine, S’Nuff, where some fun is to be had over potential features — ‘You’re not gay, she’s just boring’; ‘six ugliest celebrity children under six’ — but Amy’s boss, as played by Tilda Swinton, is not so fun, as she’s nasty and ghastly, as well as fake-tanned and plain weird. She shouts everything in cockney, like a character from EastEnders. I kept expecting her to go and bawl out Ian in the caff, but instead she dispatches Amy, who is one of those writers never seen doing any actual writing (just so you know), to interview a top sports doctor (Bill Hader), who is one of those doctors who doesn’t do much doctoring (he has only one patient, as far as I could tell). Amy has no interest in sport, but they have sex, then he wants to date …and you can guess the rest as, yes, it is absolutely that predictable, although wouldn’t it be nice if, for once, just once, the woman was the top doctor and the man a writer for a silly magazine? Just once?
There are obstacles in the path of true love, obviously, and cameos from American sports stars, which might well have been funnier, had I known who they were. There’s some gross-out humour, which is only to be expected, with Apatow in the mix, and the occasional decent one-liner, or decent observation, as in Amy saying to the doctor on their first night sleeping together: ‘I don’t really like to spoon. If I stay, could we try a more realistic position?’ But mostly the script isn’t that smart, Amy’s character is all smirks and short skirts, and the film is ill paced, meandering all over the place, often tediously. Several scenes could and should have been excised. In particular, there’s an interventionist one towards the end that is as pointless as it is unfunny, but at least I did recognise Chris Evert (I think).As for the ending itself, if this ever had conviction, which I’m still not convinced it did, it throws it right out of the window. It’s the sort of sentimental ending that used to make me want to spew, but I’ve seen it so often now, I just don’t have the energy anymore.
So Trainwreck isn’t corrective, and actually promotes what I so hoped it would pillory, which is domestic monogamy as the be-all and end-all for every woman; as the rails that will keep her train nicely chugging along. There is even a subplot to do with Amy’s sister (Brie Larson) enjoying married life with children, which Amy sneers at but only, it transpires, as a step towards embracing it with gusto. Amy Schumer has talent, for sure, but that talent is wasted here.
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