Starring Schumer -- a whip-smart stand-up comic who can act and also possesses great physical timing -- the show brings a fresh, unapologetic voice to all of that paradoxical stuff involved with being a thinking woman in our Kardasho-loaded culture. It riffs on all those hard-to-define moments and experiences in which the idea of a female sexual warrior is heartily endorsed if it is accompanied by the right amount of self-loathing and cosmetic work. It also skewers Hollywood’s still-brain-busting double standards, where the only older woman getting honored (and thought of as “hot”) these days in L.A. is Caitlyn Jenner.
For example, one of the most downloaded, and take-no-prisoners sketches this season shows a private alfresco party taking place somewhere in the arid Hollywood countryside. We discover a long picnic table, at which TV and movie stars Tina Fey, Patricia Arquette, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus are shown drinking and feasting. It turns out that they’re celebrating the freedom of Louis-Dreyfus’ “last fuckable day."
Another skit brilliantly parodies the sanctimonious earnestness of “Friday Night Lights.” A new high school football coach moves into town with his wine-mainlining wife (played by Amy) and horrifies the local populace with his shocking "no raping" rule for the team.
So all this intro is by way of saying that I appreciate the ground-breaking content that the Schumer show has delivered into the cultural ether. It has already made a difference. I also know that the natural way to move up in the entertainment hierarchy is for Schumer to write and star in her own movie.
And “Trainwreck,” in which Schumer does just that, earned $40 million in business in its opening weekend. That is considered “gangbusters,” to use 1920s Variety-style terminology.
Good for her. Except that the movie reinforces every lame stereotype that the "IAS" writers have worked so hard to satirize.
Directed by Judd Apatow, the movie is a standard full-bro Apatow production, except that it comes with a big gender twist! Here, it’s Amy who plays the Seth Rogen role. A narcissistic jerk, she’s also an immature, pot-smoking, often drunk, sexually voracious commitmentphobe who works as a writer at a gross men’s magazine called SNuff. (Is that name woman-hating enough?) And by the end of the film, she’s the one who gets to learn the beauty of cleaned-up monogamy.
Here’s the problem with these sorts of facile role reversals: Nobody wins. It’s been happening for about 30 years in advertising, where, using a basic ad formula to sell packaged goods, someone has to be the idiot who learns a product lesson.
During the 1950s and 60s, that idiot was the housewife (to David Ogilvy’s chagrin). So she received the help of the Tidy Bowl man floating in her toilet tank, or the Ajax knight riding a horse into her kitchen. And through these teachers, our polite, shirtwaisted would-be homemakers learned how to whiten, brighten, and make everything better-smelling. Just wait till hubby gets home!
As advertisers became aware that women did not want to be depicted this way, the agencies reversed the formula, so that the goofy, bumbler husband/dad was the one with his head in the oven. It was (and still is) somehow more politically correct to make dad the dummy and mom know best.
But obviously, it’s an overly broad formula that insults nuanced human beings.
To begin with, the script of “Trainwreck” is a mash-up of publishing trends from the 1990s (she works at a laddie magazine, after all) and elements of “The Devil Wears Prada” mixed with “How to Lose a Man in 10 Days.” Add a considerable dose of “Sex and the City” poisoning.
There are some funny bits. I loved the scene where she explains that she can’t sleep with the guy she just had sex with because she can feel his breathing “wind” on her neck.)
But overall, it comes off as disjointed and patchy because there are too many implausible plot lines. For example, how many eminent male sports doctors/surgeons do you know who are painfully shy and almost-virginal? (Bill Hader as Dr. Aaron Conners.) LeBron James plays Hader’s wingman, who wants to hear every detail of the relationship and to discuss “Downton Abbey” with him. (There’s a weird straight-men-who-don’t-seem-to know-they’re-gay vibe throughout.) Since Hader plays the sports doc for The Knicks, the plot hinges on an important knee replacement for Amar’e Stoudemire. (We all know how well that worked out in real life.)
Unfortunately, Amy not only plays the uncouth guy, but also the dumb blonde — and it’s a really unattractive combo She goes to interview the sports doc, and shows she knows less than zero about sports, calling one team “the Orlando Bloom.” OK that’s sort of funny, but does this take place in the land of No Google? Then she calls the charitable organization that he works for “Doctors with Borders.”
Amy also breaks a cardinal rule of journalism right away by sleeping with her subject after their first encounter. That happens only because she pushes her way into his apartment and on top of him. The reverse would be ugly, indeed.
There is a psychologically smart, compelling story about her relationship with her alcoholic, mean, cheating, sick father, and her problems with her married sister, just under the surface, that could have provided all sorts of freshness and nuance. But it never gets developed.
Instead, we get the conversion after she loses her job for almost sleeping with a 16-year-old intern, loses Hader, and hits bottom. So she stops smoking pot, throws out the alcohol, cleans up her apartment (a large loft on the Lower East Side that would rent for at least $5,000) and starts writing for a “good-girl” magazine, Vanity Fair.
The final moment, in which she actually gyrates through a routine with the Knicks City Dancers, dressed in their sexy uniform, to show Hader that she has changed, is unconscionable in its near-Stepfordness. Maybe Apatow thought it was needed to hold the attention of all the males who came to see LeBron and crew.
But it proves that “Trainwreck” is mistitled: it should be “Sell-Out.” Sorry, but I’m not getting aboard.
The tragic shooting in a Louisiana movie theater showing “Trainwreck” occurred after this edition of MadBlog went to press. Our thoughts are with the families and community involved.