How Amy Schumer’s “Trainwreck” Re&Imagines Rom&Coms And Masters A …

17 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Amy Schumer had to recruit pitying strangers to zip her dress.

NEW YORK, NY – JULY 14: Actors Bill Hader and Amy Schumer attend the ‘Trainwreck’ New York Premiere at Alice Tully Hall on July 14, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images) Judd Apatow, the writer, producer, and director of influential comedies for screens big and small over the last couple decades – with such films as The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Funny People, and This is 40 — has introduced more than his share of major comic talents to the movie audience.Amy Schumer just earned an impressive number of Emmy nominations for Inside Amy Schumer, but her comedy is actually pretty true to her life, she told Seth Meyers on Thursday’s Late Night. “It is pretty much the real me,” she said, and that can lead to some pretty embarrassing situations. Whether or not women can carry comedic roles or hold their own in the stand-up circuit has been proven long before writers/actors/producers like Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Mindy Kaling, and Lena Dunham were steering this new wave of feminist-leaning comedy.

The ones she recounted involved the fact that she lives by herself, and the standout story involves a dress. “I live alone, and I’m, like, super lonely,” Schumer began, flirting with the audience. Trainwreck seems to be Apatow’s attempt to bring Schumer’s unique comic voice, with its it’s-about-time commitment to gender reversal, to the big screen, with Apatow’s own comedic stamp present but blended into the background. The other night, she said, she was trying to zip up a dress — “I’ve, like, gained weight, and I was, like, kind of lying to myself” — but she was determined so she went down to the street and had to “just wait for somebody that looked like they weren’t, like, a monster.” The women she found, Schumer said, cheerfully recognized her: “‘Amy Schumer,’ she said. ‘Oh, you really are, like, sad and lonely.'” It got worse when they needed to recruit a second passerby. The film opens with a flashback in which Amy’s father Gordon (a comeback turn by Colin Quinn) tells 9-year-old Amy and her 5-year-old sister Kim that he is divorcing their mother and that “monogamy doesn’t work.” The adult Amy, whose boyfriend is a dimwitted, obviously closeted gay bodybuilder named Steven (a very adroit comic turn by West Newbury native John Cena), has multiple sexual partners. Despite hating sports, she meets a sports doctor played by Bill Hader, whom she is assigned to write a profile of and with whom, following what she thinks is a one-night stand, she finds herself uncharacteristically falling in love.

She compares one well-endowed partner to “the whole cast of ‘Game of Thrones.’” Amy has issues with her sister Kim (Brie Larson), who is married to a guy (Mike Birbiglia) Amy finds boring and has a tween stepson (Evan Brinkman) who is a weird nerd. Directed by Judd Apatow and written by Schumer, Trainwreck follows Amy (Schumer), “a modern chick who does what she wants”—which, as it happens, is often drinking, smoking pot, and juggling a tattered Rolodex of men.

Basketball superstar LeBron James plays himself in a supporting role that is much more than a cameo and will raise a few eyebrows on folks who thought all he was good at was basketball; if you saw him host Saturday Night Live, you knew otherwise. The sisters also tangle over Gordon, who has MS and is living in a retirement home that he complains turns into “Caligula” at night, thanks to the use of Viagra among the old men.

Amy’s aversion to monogamy no doubt stems from her philandering dad (Colin Quinn), but when her assignment to profile sports doctor Aaron Conners (Bill Hader) leads to unexpected love, Amy is forced to tread through the foreign and often murky waters of a real relationship. Yes, I am afraid the romantic plot follows the age-old arc of the on-again, off-again relationship movie and make us wonder if the heroine will end up, not only happily semi-married, but also with a doctor. It’s a romantic comedy filtered through Schumer’s lens, with all the bloody tampon jokes, unapologetic sex scenes, and general hot messiness in tact. The spirited ensemble supporting cast includes Tilda Swinton, Brie Larson, Colin Quinn, Mike Birbiglia, Vanessa Bayer, John Cena, Marisa Tomei, Leslie Jones, Matthew Broderick as himself, Daniel Radcliffe, Jim Norton, Method Man, Norman Lloyd, and Barkhad Abdi, Jon Glaser, and sportscaster Marv Albert.

What’s been expected of romantic comedies of late is turned on its head in Trainwreck: It’s the woman who’s avoiding commitment and the man who’s yearning for stability. “A lot of people have asked me if I intended to kind of flip the gender roles like I’m playing the guy, and that’s not been my experience at all,” Schumer said in a press conference for the film. “This is how I am and how a lot of girls are where the guy ends up being a little more sensitive and more invested.” After a dismal slump in the early 2000s for romantic comedies, Trainwreck could be what’s needed for the genre to get back on track—this time, with women controlling the narrative. Although Apatow rightfully concentrates on his two leads, he, aided by Schumer’s funny, poignant, and perceptive debut screenplay, allows most of his supporting players moments, or even full scenes, in which to shine, especially – who knew they could play comedy so adroitly? – B-baller James, wrestler Cena, and ex-SNL newsdesk jockey Quinn. Among the other highlights are Dianna’s claim to have slept with three quarters of Pink Floyd, a story pitch called “Ugliest Celebrity Kids Under 5,” James’ surprising comic licks, a sprightly turn by 99-year Norman Lloyd (the guy who fell off the Statue of Liberty in Hitchcock’s “Saboteur”) and Dave Attell’s wise-cracking panhandler. Among his other directorial gifts, Apatow sure knows how to get strong, unself-conscious work from a number of folks not known primarily as comedic actors.

It wasn’t too long ago that interrogative headlines to the tune of “Who Killed the Romantic Comedy?” “Why Are Romantic Comedies So Bad?” and “Have Romantic Comedies Fallen on Hard Times?” dominated the genre’s narrative. As for the endearing Schumer, whom we already knew was funny and blessed with superb comic timing, she’s also a natural screen actress who can deliver the emotional truth of a moment or situation, and Hader – whom we also already knew was funny — demonstrates easily that his stellar dramatic work in The Skeleton Twins was no fluke. But to understand what Trainwreck could signal for films to come, it’s important to look at its unlikely romantic comedy predecessor: the bromantic comedy.

Even though they fall in step with what Jeffers-McDonald refers to as a humorous quest for love, the “romantic” gets dropped, leaving only the broader genre of “comedy.” This isn’t a quibble over semantics—it highlights the harmful delineations that ghettoize female-driven comedies. “Genres like the romantic comedy are among those that get the least respect,” says Alberti. “In some way they’ve been trivialized because they seem to be about women’s concerns. This idea now extends to the tagline for Trainwreck posters and billboard: “We all know one.” In other words: It’s okay, dudes, this flick’s for you, too. Moreover, Apatow’s bromances were effectively a warm-up act to what’s widely regarded as the first film of the feminist comedy new wave: Bridesmaids. Did they talk to Scorsese like, ‘Oh, careful there, Marty—you’re making too many good movies with guys in them’?” The commercial and critical success of Bridesmaids has given other writers and directors like Leslye Headland the opportunity to get their projects off the ground.

But for someone like me, it sort of is,” she says. “It’s like, Oh my god, I’m going to have a career now.” And it’s that kind of optimism that speaks directly to the one niggling factor behind women reclaiming the romantic comedy: The film industry is still overwhelmingly driven by men. Why would you want anybody in your life to be anything other than fully rounded?” If you’re familiar with Schumer’s stand-up routines, then you already have a sense of what you can expect from Trainwreck.

During a simple game of going around the circle and revealing a secret, Amy manages to decimate the party with her recounting a round of particularly zesty sex when a condom got stuck to her cervix and she had to use her finger to fish it out. That’s what feels relatable about Trainwreck: Schumer isn’t guessing how her character might act, she knows how she’ll act because she’s been there herself. “Amy is definitely a person who her stand-up act is built on speaking up and calling bullshit on certain aspects of our culture,” says Barry Mendel, coproducer of Trainwreck. “She’s somebody who’s going to shine a light on things she thinks are unjust or silly, and I think the movie is an extension of what she’s doing on her show, and her show is an extension of what she’s done in her act—it’s a very consistent throughline.” It’s a throughline that hits with men and women but, like a flip of Apatow’s bromantic comedies, it’s women, Mendel says, who have had the strongest response. “We’ve seen the movie a half dozen times and there’s a way in which guys enjoy it and think it’s really funny in a way where we’re kind of ashamed of ourselves,” he says. “But there’s a look that women get in their eye when they see [Schumer] do her thing, which is more of like a look you see in an Evangelical church where it’s just like, “Yes! With films like Trainwreck and Headland’s Sleeping With Other People, the genre is getting a reboot that feels more current and in line with modern relationships.

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