When my husband first suggested we go to see Judd Apatow’s Trainwreck, I admit I was a little bit skeptical. Comedy with a contemporary setting isn’t a genre I usually feel moved to see in the theater; Netflix will do just fine. I’d never seen a Judd Apatow film. I’d heard of Amy Schumer, but I’d never seen her show. And frankly, not having seen a halfway decent romantic comedy since Disney’s Tangled, I’d become convinced that romantic comedies are a genre that Hollywood quite simply no longer knows how to make. But after I read Internet film critic James Berardinelli’s review, I decided I’d give it a shot. I enjoyed it far more than I’d imagined I would. In fact, if we could find the time, it might be fun to see again.
Five things I love about Trainwreck:
1. It’s a step in the recent march of progress for women in the comedy genre.
Had I been asked a few years ago, I would have proclaimed that comedy was the least woman-friendly of all movie genres, with a sharp divide between light-as-cotton-candy “romantic” comedies in which the viewer is hard pressed to care whether the couple end up together at all, and bromantic comedies like The Hangover, The Dilemma, and Hot Tub Time Machine, in which female characters are portrayed as either sex toys or killjoys, and emotional commitment to a woman is to be avoided at all costs. The latter type, of course, was far more likely to flourish at the box office and even to win critical seal of approval. Then along came a game-changer: Paul Feig’s Bridesmaids, the director’s effort to show that women can do the raunchy-comedy thing as well as men — a bit too crude for my tastes, but a box-office hit, Since then, women’s stock in big-screen comedy has been on the rise. This summer we’ve seen not only Trainwreck but Spy, the first of Paul Feig’s woman-centered comedies that I actually want to see. Both have proved successful with audiences and critics, and how can I not love that? Trainwreck also boasts a screenplay by Amy Schumer herself, so the movie constitutes a Win for a woman behind the camera as well as in front of it.
2. Amy Schumer’s character is complicated and messy, and seems like someone I could meet in real life.
There’s something so down-to-earth, so real, about Schumer that I couldn’t help loving her character in spite of her sometimes questionable behavior, or maybe even a little bit because of it. That she could veer so wildly from insensitive and arrogant to vulnerable and heartbroken (the funeral scene is genuinely moving) and still seem so authentically herself is a sign of the talent of both Schumer the actress and Schumer the writer. It’s why I could buy the movie’s traditionally happy ending, which some have seen as anti-feminist, and still cheer when, at her sister’s baby shower, “Amy” purposely shocks the “real housewives of Hell” with a story of one of her raunchier sexual exploits.
3. Bill Hader’s character is a nice guy, not a Nice Guy.
We’ve all heard of the “Nice Guy,” the guy who thinks he’s entitled to get the girl because he’s “not like those other jerks.” If a girl doesn’t return his love, it’s her fault, and she should be ashamed of herself for not appreciating his virtues. (The Nice Guy’s psychotic underside is Elliot Rodger, who went on a killing spree to avenge himself on the women who wouldn’t date him.) Hader’s character could easily have come across as this, but writer Schumer and actor Hader tread the fine line with care, so that the character emerges as the kind of person we should see more often in comedy: a good-hearted straight-arrow gentleman who genuinely cares about the people around him, and who richly deserves his happy ending. That sense of entitlement that makes the Nice Guy so toxic is missing from “Aaron.” He considers himself lucky to have found “Amy.”
4. LeBron James is a fan of “Downton Abbey!” Who knew?
My favorite scene has nothing to do with the romance. It’s the bit where LeBron James, playing (a version of) himself, tries to set up a time when he and sports doctor “Aaron” can watch the latest Downton Abbey episode, because if he doesn’t see it before the next practice, his teammates will Spoil it for him. And another stereotype goes down in flames.
5. Trainwreck is a romantic comedy men and women can both love.
Movies that end with a kiss or a wedding tend to be dismissed out of hand as “chick flicks,” as if an appeal to/for a female audience somehow made a movie less worthy of attention and respect. But here is a movie that knows how to mix raunchy, politically incorrect humor and sentiment without coming across as jarringly incongruous. Plenty of women love this movie, as they should. But men are enjoying it, too. My husband had as much fun as I did, and I’ve heard as much positive word of mouth from men as from women. Together, Schumer and Apatow have injected new life into the “date movie,” with an offering that both people on the date will want to see.
(“Five Things I Love about…” is a new blog series in which I will cover a variety of things that have made me happy, from books to movies to television to music.)
One more thing, courtesy my husband Matt: if you desire to see Trainwreck, please try to see at a theater that serves booze. You do not need to consume any booze to enjoy the film, mind you. But a boozy atmosphere with adults will make the experience one you’ll truly enjoy.