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I was having trouble …

July 20, 2015

… making progress on what I ought to be working on, so I jotted down some notes on Trainwreck instead.

As has been noted, the movie to some degree subverts romantic comedy formulas by giving its female protagonist qualities customarily reserved for the male love interest in a gigolo-reformation plot. Screenwriter Amy Schumer’s character, also named Amy, is in some ways a self-possessed voluptuary—she enjoys sex without commitment, and her pot smoking and apparent alcoholism hasn’t yet stymied her professional ambitions. On the other hand, her partying and the no-sleepovers carapace that attends it is an unwanted patrimony, an echo of her now ailing father, who left the family to pursue unrestrained libertinism when Amy and her younger sister were very young. So it’s sex-positivity laced with shame or at least tied to childhood trauma. The psychology hasn’t been fussed over and is introduced facetiously, though we’re asked to lend it some weight. Needless to say, romantic comedies are in the business of promoting monogamy and convention, but Schumer and director Judd Apatow haven’t risked making their opposites look too appealing.

It’s traditional, of course, for female romcom protagonists, and their literary antecedents, to have a character flaw whose self-recognition and correction enables the happy romantic conclusion, some rigidity that can be softened only by true love, but it’s rare for a woman to play a romcom lead in need of full-scale redemption. This protagonist is the sort of wounded, often repellant, defensively cruel character sometimes played by Jack Nicholson, Bill Murray, or Adam Sandler, and as such it’s a bold challenge to double standards of likability.

Lest we feel to at sea with all this inversion, Amy works in publishing, and her love interest, Aaron, is a very successful doctor with a beautiful apartment and celebrated patients—but these conventions are employed with some originality. When Amy first visits Aaron’s apartment, she asks, during dimly lit foreplay, if he owns the apartment, a funny and inspired way to articulate the financial stakes.

Judd Apatow seems like a decent guy, but I sure dislike his movies.

Amy’s father is supposed to be simultaneously loathsome and lovable, though the latter quality isn’t made apparent to the audience. In a rehearsal of one of the most tiresome and (I’d thought, waning) comedic screenwriting conventions of the past several decades, the father is mostly on hand to make sensationally bigoted remarks that Amy the character can chastise while Amy the screenwriter hopes for our gasps of shocked hilarity. In the reasonably crowded and somewhat diverse suburban theater in which I saw the movie, these jokes sparked no laughter, silences that gave me as much pleasure as anything in the movie itself. The movie’s satire of the protagonist’s much milder racism is, alas, a bit flat and shopworn as well.

Some fun scenes, sure. These are notes, not a review.

In another overfamiliar line of dubiously hip sophomoric comedy, a fair amount of attention is paid to ineptly closeted men who blurt out their uncontainable desires in often racy detail. Of course, minor comedic movie characters tend to reveal themselves clumsily—it’s efficient, for one thing—and part of the comedy here has to do with how mismatched Amy is with the sort-of boyfriend she has in the movie’s first act. But certainly much of this material here is predicated on the idea that straight audiences still find queer sexuality inherently funny, but might feel more enlightened if they seem to be laughing at artifice rather than difference, or laughing at someone else’s homophobia rather than indulging their own. In addition to the movie’s two closeted characters, there’s a third guy, from a tryst thwarted in the nick of time, whose sexual proclivities and techniques are ridiculous mostly because they’re undeveloped and incompetent (he turns out to be sixteen), but also because he’s androgynous. When, in a scene set in the living room of Amy’s more conventional sister, a prim bourgeoise makes a homophobic remark, Amy’s rebuke feels unearned.

The Dots were very fresh; excellent mouthfeel.

 

 

 

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