“Trainwreck” and the Perpetuation of Adolescence
Trainwreck is a current film in which Amy Shumer shooms and amies her way through a movie playing a character named Amy while she Amy Shoomers her way through a vapid job in the right career field and boinks from one-night stand to one-night stand on a booze-crazed sex-driven adventure, all before finding herself in a relationship that finally convinces her to “try” at being better in all aspects of her life.
She wrote and starred in it. Schum shoom. It’s called “Trainwreck,” presumably because someone told her that “Amy” was already being used for that Amy Winehouse documentary. Bummer.
In all this, Amy Schumer’s Trainwreck represents something of an enigma for me.
I don’t think I’ve ever gone to see a movie and been more irritated for the first half-hour in a theater only for that film to then rebound in its latter three-quarters to deliver a solid experience. But despite all that, the film as a whole just feels really masturbatory, and not in a sexual sense. It’s a movie written by and for Amy Schumer so that she can showcase all that is Schumer. We’re meant to worship at the altar of Schumer. If you’re already an acolyte, then you’ll probably love it. But if you’re skeptical, like me, you might not.
You see, I really hated the beginning of this movie. Hated it. It was awful. Terrible. I seriously considered napping instead of sitting through it. Trainwreck starts as a string of strained comic scenes meant to force upon us how funny we are supposed to think Amy Schumer is. It feels like a bunch of skits clobbered together, trying hard to be funny for the sake of laughs without really caring much for the broader plot or pace. It felt just like A Million Ways to Die in the West in this respect. Maybe I went into this viewing experience a bit bitter, reeling from what I thought was a irreverent, distasteful GQ photo shoot in which Schumer can be seen sucking on C-3PO’s finger. What can I say? I’m a stodgy old fart.
I get frustrated sometimes by famous people that try aggressively hard to be something, to market themselves not necessarily as who they actually are, but as meat-wearing freaks worshipped at the altar of vapid celebrity. I tend to question the authenticity of celebs whose media brand is super-refined (Taylor Swift I love you, but who are you really?) or those whose fame feeds into itself like some kind of cultural masturbation fest (Kim Kardashian, famous for being famous and “accidentally” letting the world see videos of her having sex). And now, let’s refer to the erudite Hannibal Buress in his unaired bit from the Roast of Justin Bieber.
The point I am edging at here is that Schumer has this vaguely asinine public persona that seems to have more to do with making some sort of statement by shocking our culture than truly being authentic. I shouldn’t be judging, I know, but my irritation with her brand has a lot to do with my irritation with the first quarter of Trainwreck. Schumer is all about making promiscuity cool, or at least acceptable, especially for women edging into their thirties. And by all means, we are all free thinkers entitled to make our own decisions when it comes to what we do with our bodies, and by the end the movie makes the point that her behavior was making her secretly very unhappy.
She drinks a lot, drifts through life precariously maneuvering from one-night stands to sex with a muscle-man she’s dating and back to one-night stands. She routinely leaves things like banquets or movies to smoke a joint outside (or in a pinch, next to an open window). Even the character is named Amy, because Schumer is so Schumer that she loves Schumering as much as possible. Shoom. (last one, I promise). I get irritated because Amy Schumer is kind of an “it” girl right now, and at face value the things she espouses aren’t necessarily things we ought to be proud of, but I think she might ultimately be poking fun at the conservative, judgmental folks out there.
But back to the Amy of Trainwreck.
Even her job is shallow and stupid, as a journalist for S’Nuff Magazine. To get a sense of what the magazine is like, just know that Councilman Jamm pitches a story during a staff meeting about when, where, and how to get away with masturbating at work (real masturbation this time), something he proudly claims to already have begun “researching.” And he gets a green light on this from the editor, a one-note tan and asinine Tilda Swinton. Because that’s the kind of stuff S’Nuff is all about. The rest of the magazine’s staff sort of fades into the background as the film rolls on, save for the intern, played by the insufferable Ezra Miller (who is also The Flash now? wtf?), who serves as a minor catalyst entering into the film’s final act.
Amy gets along with her sister (gotta love Brie Larson) when she isn’t too busy giving her a hard time for settling down. But Amy’s
most only endearing moments come from a longing to take care of her senile old father, who has just gotten to the point where he needs institutional care.
It’s during some of the earlier scenes with her Mets-obsessed father that I began to realize what felt wrong with this movie. Overall, it’s a mediocre plot that sort of traipses along, but the dialogue written for the supporting cast is downright hilarious. Amy’s father and her sort of boyfriend, Steven (John Cena) early on are delightful, and LeBron James’ scenes are the crowning jewels of the whole movie. Who knew the guy had acting chops as well? (Space Jam 2 PLEASE!). The struggle is that neither Amy the character nor Amy Schumer the actress has enough likability to keep things afloat. Her eventual love interest, Bill Hader, is amazing in everything he does, but at times it feels like not even he can keep things afloat.
The movie as a whole is a bit bloated. It’s sort of a romantic comedy, but it’s just way too long. We don’t even meet Bill Hader’s Doctor Aaron Conners until 45 minutes in, and the whole thing runs longer than two hours. I almost want to see an edit of this movie that doesn’t include John Cena. As much as I loved his scenes, Steven and Amy’s fledgeling relationship does little more than reaffirm what we already know: Amy is selfish, afraid of commitment, loves to get messed up on booze and pot and sleep around. We don’t need to see her push Steven away when he wants to get more serious.
But…but! As we progress deeper and deeper into this movie, we begin to realize that Amy Schumer is using the character of Amy to comment on some problems with contemporary society. Our generation is largely plagued by a sense of arrested development. Almost everybody goes to college, and almost nobody is getting the job they want. We act like kids and get all giddy about cartoony superhero movies. Simon Pegg, contender for king of the nerds, shed some light on this phenomonon in a great way this past May. Devin Faraci over at Birth.Movies.Death summarized the entire thing really coherently, but the gist of it is this: we as a culture as so preoccupied with the same interests we had as a child, and it’s all marketed to us as a means of directing our attention away from things we really ought to be concerned about.
Bettering ourselves and making the world around us a better place are two things on that list that far too few people pay attention to.
Amy’s developing relationship with Dr. Conners gets to the point where Amy tries to cut and run, to go before the going gets tough, but she eventually comes to the conclusion that she has to try to be a better person rather than expect everything to be handed out to her. And that, I think, is a wonderful lesson for just about anybody to hear.
I’ll toss another reference towards B.M.D., because Faraci’s piece on Trainwreck was really potent, and certainly affected my opinion of the film.
Snippets Watchability Index:
See it in theaters if you really like Amy Schumer already. Just liking Bill Hader won’t be enough for you, but if you’re a LeBron James megafan, this might be worth your time. Otherwise, feel free to wait out the nebulous amount of time before Trainwreck finds itself on Netflix or Amazon. Paying to rent should not be on the table.