Movie review | The surprise of ‘Trainwreck’ is that Lebron isn’t a trainwreck …

27 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Amy Schumer doesn’t accept any thin excuses.

Swilling from a bottle of plonk on stage (because really what better way to stay in the mood?) at her sell-out, one-off show at Hamer Hall, the US comic of the moment lets it all hang out.The film’s star and writer was conducting an interview with KIIS 101.1’s Matt Tilley and Jane Hill about the romantic comedy, in which she stars as a promiscuous, hard-drinking woman who falls for a sports surgeon, played by Bill Hader. So anyone weary of film-makers drumming home the message that two is the magic – in fact the only – number will be forgiven for looking forward to Trainwreck, a new comedy about a young woman seemingly content in her life of promiscuity.

Without the hint of an airbrush she cut through the vast swathes of fear, shame, guilt, embarrassment and idiosyncrasies of life, to tell it as she sees it. “I was born 160 pounds (about 70 kilos, I checked),” she shouts to the rooftops, owning her little black dress, with a hemline any fashion police would surely deem too short. Schumer admitted part of her character is based on her real life, confessing, “There’s a lot of me in this movie,” prompting Tilley to make his ill-advised comment, asking, “Do you have the word skanky in America?” He then responded, “Come on, that’s the character in the movie.

That’s a rude question.” Tilley’s co-host tried to calm the tension between the two, but he later angered the comedienne again when he claimed the movie’s plot boiled down to Schumer’s character just trying to find a boyfriend. The movie is directed by Judd Apatow, who made Knocked Up (in which a shambolic stoner and an up-and-coming TV presenter have a child after a one-night stand) and also produced that emblem of defiant single living, Bridesmaids, which argued that romance could be a minor element in a woman’s life, far below friendship and sexual satisfaction.

Most significantly, Apatow shepherded to the screen Lena Dunham’s HBO series Girls, which has exerted a cultural influence out of all proportion to its viewing figures. But having trawled magazines all my life and having a job which often requires me to speak to stick-thin models and celebrities on red carpets, I’m ashamed to admit Schumer looked like a big gal up there on stage. When she got the Trailblazer Award at the Glamour UK Women of the Year event, she bragged, “I’m probably like 160 pounds right now, and I can catch a dick whenever I want.” No wonder she has been called the comedy voice of the Tinder age.

Despite the pioneering advances of Sex and the City, it looked increasingly as if Samantha (Kim Cattrall), the most ravenous and uninhibited of that programme’s central quartet, was paying an extravagantly high price for her freedom, first with a settling-down storyline, and then when she was hit with cancer. Her raw observations lament how all her Hollywood auditions usually left her being asked if she was there to “read for the girl who’s getting gastric bypass surgery”. Once Amy falls in love with a good-egg sports doctor (Bill Hader), the film throws in its lot decisively with a view of society that would not be out of place in a church sermon or Conservative manifesto.

The only way for Amy to find happiness is to forgo her indiscriminate, hedonistic lifestyle and prove herself worthy of the love of this upstanding man. It’s disappointing that something released in 2015 can seem so out of touch with the modern world, where desires can be catered for with the touch of a button or the swipe of a smartphone app. One highlight is a scene in which the shop clerk of the title, Dante, agonises over a casual confession by his girlfriend that she has performed oral sex on “something like 36” men in her lifetime. The femme fatale, an archetype of film noir, is the most extreme example – think of Rita Hayworth in Gilda, cuckolding her husband with a former lover, and then humiliating him in turn with a taunting performance of Put the Blame on Mame as a crowd of lecherous men compete to separate her from the slinky black number she’s wearing. And online commentator Ryan Lattanzio wondered: “Why, as the film slogs toward its touchy-feely conclusion, does the script have to force her to relinquish her wanton femininity and pull down the freak flag in favor of the safer, comfier structures of family, togetherness and coupledom?” In these readings, Amy’s enthusiastic embrace of hookup culture is actually an affirmation of feminist empowerment.

In her groundbreaking 1992 book Men, Women and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film, Carol J Clover proposed the theory of the “final girl” – the surviving female character, such as Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) in Halloween, whose sexual inexperience preserves her uniquely from the killer’s attentions. The problem, however, is that ‘fun’ is still circumscribed by patriarchy, and a woman’s worth is determined by her ability to hew to expectations of desirability.” Other critics get around this problem by ignoring it. It is a moment when talented, highly educated women from privileged backgrounds (Lena Dunham also comes to mind) are celebrated as feminists and behave like trailer trash.

Long before Lars von Trier subjected Charlotte Gainsbourg to repeated sexual humiliation and violence in his two-part Nymphomaniac, he had directed Breaking the Waves, starring Emily Watson as a childlike young woman who undertakes demeaning sexual encounters with strangers at the behest of her hospitalised, paraplegic husband. The overtones of martyrdom and sacrifice in this religious parable sat uneasily with the images of Watson tottering around the Scottish countryside in hotpants and heels. It was a vision of degradation turned knowingly on its head when Scarlett Johansson undertook a similar odyssey, this time with a more predatory bent, as an alien prowling Glasgow luring men to their deaths in Under the Skin.

And no one believed more fervently in sexual liberation, as I recall, than the men who wanted to sleep with us. “Why are you so up tight?” they’d say when we demurred. Someone always has to suffer in the cinematic view of promiscuity: on those occasions when the woman isn’t placed in jeopardy by her own libido, you can be sure a man will pay the price.

In Fatal Attraction and Basic Instinct, two sensationalist thrillers that became cultural phenomena, he was placed at the mercy of a single-minded woman (Glenn Close and Sharon Stone respectively) who threatened to literally devour him. Whereas Sea of Love, a 1989 thriller starring Al Pacino as a cop who suspects that Ellen Barkin could be responsible for the killings of men on the singles scene, had the intelligence to subvert misogyny, those Michael Douglas vehicles couldn’t countenance the idea of a woman unable to be controlled by a man, unwilling to submit to marriage or motherhood. It would be ridiculous that a wife’s admission of sexual fantasies in Eyes Wide Shut could on its own be enough to send her husband (Tom Cruise) into a tailspin, were it not for the carnivorous hunger with which Nicole Kidman plays that scene. It harks back to the moment in Strangers When We Meet, a 1960 drama about the affair between two married neighbours, played by Kirk Douglas and Kim Novak, in which Novak recalls a reckless sexual encounter she once had with a trucker. Her preference is for drink, drugs and casual sex; she recoils from anyone (such as one partner played by a young Richard Gere) who attempts any deeper intimacy.

It’s depressing anyway that the movie shaped real, tragic events into a moralising narrative designed to deter women from aspiring to freedoms that are commonplace for men. That the film opened in 1977, the same year as Woody Allen’s Annie Hall (which also starred Keaton, this time as a liberated woman comfortable with her own appetite and idiosyncrasies) only makes it feel even more alarmist. For that brief moment, Allen and Keaton provided the sort of model for women that male viewers take so much for granted that they don’t even notice it’s there. In a world where James Bond can dispense with sexual partners with all the casualness of a man flicking through old copies of Racing Post, it doesn’t seem impertinent to wonder why a film as superficially modern as Trainwreck can’t consider other lifestyle choices for its characters. Portraits of promiscuity tend to be restricted to female characters, but Steve McQueen’s 2012 drama, starring Michael Fassbender as a high-flying New Yorker addicted to sex, is a notable exception.

Overly sombre and self-important, it does at least attempt to explore what it would entail for a life to be defined by the joyless pursuit of emotionless sex. This 1978 British film about a London geography teacher who spends his nights scouring gay clubs and bars takes an unusually detailed and compassionate view of the job of looking for love that doesn’t want to be found. But Meg Ryan, right, was an unexpectedly compelling replacement as the sexually adventurous woman whose voyeuristic escapades lead her to become a witness in a murder case. David Cronenberg’s controversial adaptation of JG Ballard’s novel about people who become sexually stimulated by car accidents is remembered for the furore it caused, with some critics calling for it to be banned. But it is also one of the few movies that takes an authentically sane and detached approach to promiscuity, showing its characters engaged across the boundaries of their individual relationships in the single-minded pursuit of pleasure.

This documentary depicts the professional porn star Annabel Chong in her record-breaking attempt to have sex on camera with 251 men in the space of 10 hours. Linking the filming to her traumatic memories of being raped as a student, and incorporating material about her family, it strives for an analytical reading of a disturbing and complex spectacle.

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