Sean K. Cureton

Archive for July, 2015|Monthly archive page

Off the Rails

In Movie Reviews: 2015 on July 25, 2015 at 10:49 am
Theatrical Poster

Theatrical Poster

Directed by Judd Apatow
3 out of 4 stars

Judd Apatow’s latest directorial effort marks the first time that the well-traveled comic writer and producer has helped in the distillation of another comedian’s voice, presence, and screen image at feature film length. After uplifting Lena Dunham’s indie film cultural cache to the level of international fame on the hit HBO original series Girls, it only makes sense that Apatow’s next work as a director would be more precisely aimed at uncovering the potential of another comic talent of the millennial generation in the multiplex. Amy Schumer made a name for herself as an insult comic featured on Comedy Central’s roast of Charlie Sheen before going on to write and star in her own sketch-comedy show on the same network, and her’s is the muse of Apatow’s professorial tutelage in the tenured studio comedy filmmaker’s fifth film, supporting an original script written by the film’s star, and featuring all of the young comedienne’s stereotypical wit and parodic verve. Unlike Lena Dunham, Schumer is a little more profane in her own wholly sophomoric approach to comedy, Trainwreck an unholy mock-drama of all the romantic comedies to come before it. In skewering basic gender stereotypes and making fun of commonly accepted moral values and ethical laws otherwise acknowledged and obeyed in even the most low-brow sex comedy, Schumer proves herself to be the Nora Ephron of the next generation, her Trainwreck like When Harry Met Sally only with the roles reversed, the title of Ephron’s famous film more appropriately reading When Sally Slept With Harry if Schumer had written the script to the well-loved Rob Reiner film.

In Trainwreck, Schumer plays a version of herself, the Amy of the film an immature, sex-obsessed, infidelity loving heartbreaker who is content to traipse from one one-night stand to the next, the proverbial walk of shame experienced by many a twenty-something after a long night of half remembered embraces an experience of daily existence for the Amy of Schumer’s new film. Amy in Trainwreck comes off as something of a lost soul in a way that is similar to Lena Dunham’s doppelgänger Hannah Horvath in Girls, only where Hannah appears genuinely interested in pursuing goals and achievements outside of rendering pleasure unto herself, the Amy Schumer character is utterly without a moral compass, her bumbling solipsism disguised as a means by which to navigate the absurdity of a world in which monogamy is the expected norm (a cruel, social joke which she has learned to laugh at following the example and lessons taught to her from an early age by her ne’er do well father). In the opening scene of the film, Amy’s father (Colin Quinn) tells his two daughters that he is divorcing their mother because it’s a ridiculous expectation to believe than anyone should be forced to play with one “doll,” as he so figuratively puts it within the context of a metaphor meant to be readily assessable to his two pre-pubescent daughters, for the rest of their lives. Harping on the purported statement that “monogamy isn’t realistic” as if it were fact, Quinn leads his eldest daughter down a path well paved with empty gestures and cruel intentions. Solipsism thus plays a central role in terms of establishing character in Schumer’s script, and under Apatow’s direction Amy’s obsessive-compulsive, self-involvement becomes a means by which alcoholism and serial polygamy is allowed via the prism of self-delusion and the projected martyrdom applied to Colin Quinn’s father figure.

Girls provided an avenue by which Apatow might be able to explore patriarchy through the purview of a female protagonist, and in ceding authorial control over to another comic voice the studio comedy producer found a new means by which art greater than that which he might be able to develop on his own was given birth through collaboration with an entirely dissimilar gender, class, and generation. Trainwreck follows this example directly, and offers the means by which another new talent in comedy may be given the space to explore her own desire to tell stories on the big screen, the thematic content of Schumer’s work invigorating in its dissimilar nature to Dunham’s in tone, rhetorical structure, and comic timing. Where Dunham often appears prideful in her appropriation of the feminist agenda as she sees it, Schumer is less interested in promoting the morals espoused by any specific social movement, her only form of political activism arising from within, Trainwreck a true representation of her voice as Girls is of Dunham’s, each one a product of Apatow’s mentorship and ability to guide seemingly similar voices to their seperate ends. Amy Schumer, as she appears in Apatow’s film, is perversely seductive, not because she is classically feminine, but in her opposition to capitulating to accepted standards of gendered beauty, her slovenly, devil-may-care comportment and attitude bleeding into a character who is intensely attractive despite herself. Amy the character is real in a way that the likes of a Meg Ryan only ever appears to be on film, Trainwreck the story of the morning after a night of Dionysian excess, not the fantasy imagined through the fog of booze from the night before.

Nora Ephron may be the patron saint of being in love in the movies, but Amy Schumer might just be the fallen angel of that former fantasy. Trainwreck thrives on its seeming subversion of the romantic-comedy genre over the course of the first half of the film before becoming the post-modern embrace of the self-same genre over the course of the feature’s second half. The Amy character that Schumer chooses to portray may be a stubborn, obstinate, and reluctant lover to Bill Hader’s immediately likable sports doctor, but she is also the antidote to all of Meg Ryan’s unrealistic, coy flirtation in films like Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail. Where Ephron was frustratingly content to promote the immoral fantasies that have made romantic comedies a joke even when done as well as she herself was able to compose them, Schumer feels more at home telling the truth about her relationships with men, even if her film also falls prey to the happy ending required by its inherent melodrama. Judd Apatow has a made name for himself in the past as a frat boy comedy writer, the boys club featured in films such as The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up largely superseded by his recent passion for scouting talents from outside of his established fraternity, more often than not coming from neighboring sororities of late. Trainwreck falls victim to more than a few conveniences in terms of scripted plot, but where it truly excels is in its star performer, Amy Schumer’s vitality as a comic actress powerful and viscerally felt throughout, however happy an ending she may have seen fit to prematurely award herself at film’s end.