Over the weekend, my roomie Christopher Kain and I went to see Trainwreck starring Amy Schumer. We had seen the trailer when we went to see Ted 2 a couple of weeks earlier and were intrigued.
In recent months, Schumer has emerged as comedy’s it-girl, especially after she pranked Kanye West and Kim Kardashian by deliberating falling in front of them at the TIME 100 Gala in New York City last April and was particularly witty in her appearance with Jimmy Kimmel shortly thereafter. So why not?
After seeing the movie, I read Armond White’s review of it at NRO. It’s pretty safe to say that he didn’t like it much:
Trainwreck should be a wake-up call for anyone — especially for any conservative — who thinks pop culture is guileless, harmless fun. In the prologue, the juvenile Amy receives her misogynistic, alcoholic widower father’s advice (“Monogamy is not realistic”) and then patterns her life on those words — yet without ever considering their misogynistic, alcoholic basis. Behind this gag, Schumer blames patriarchy for Amy’s sluttishness.
Not really a sex comedy, Trainwreck is a comedy that uses sex to promote feminist permissiveness. Thus, it is an explicitly political comedy. Schumer’s schtick is to remake sexual, social, and gender attitudes: Amy tickles contemporary liberalism using a raunchy sense of privilege.
White must have been watching a different movie because I saw nothing “explicitly political” about Trainwreck. Sometimes our politics can get in the way of judging a work of art on its own merit. It would appear this is what happened with White when he saw the movie. It also probably didn’t help that he had an axe to grind against Schumer because he lumps her in with Lena Dunham, Janeane Garofalo, Sarah Silverman, and even Jon Stewart. As it happens, I don’t find any of them particularly funny. But Amy Schumer. She’s, well, funny.
She’s also a damn good writer. Sure a great deal of the humor is crude. But we live in a crude age. All things considered, Schumer keeps her crudeness in moderation. She gives others the space to shine. Playing her love interest, the underrated Bill Heder more than holds his own against Schumer’s bombast. It is also nice to see 100-year old Norman Lloyd (best known for roles in Dead Poets Society andTV’s St. Elsewhere) still acting.
But it is NBA superstar LeBron James who steals the show. Yes, he is playing himself, but it is a very funny LeBron who cannot miss an episode of Downton Abbey, tell the difference between Cleveland and Miami, and won’t pick up the check. This won’t be the last time we see LeBron on the silver screen. When LeBron stages an intervention with Hader he is assisted by Matthew Broderick, tennis legend Chris Evert, and sportscaster Marv Albert all playing themselves. Albert does a hilarious play by play account of the intervention that is reminscent of the late Howard Cosell’s color commentary of Fielding Melish’s wedding night in the Woody Allen comedy Bananas. (Incidentally, White also reviews Allen’s latest film Irrational Man and doesn’t like it either.)
In the grand scheme of things, White absolutely misses the point. Yes, it has been drilled into the Amy character’s head that “monogamy is not realistic.” Yes, she is promiscuous. Yes, she gets on her sister (played by singer and actress Brie Larson) for living the middle-class family life. But it is clear that Schumer’s character is not happy with her life and her choices are not without consequence. She is heartbroken over her “misogynistic, alcoholic” father’s death (played ably by Colin Quinn) and is on tenterhooks at her magazine job with her icy boss (I hardly recognized Tilda Swinton), who eventually fires her. At the risk of giving way the ending, we don’t truly see any happiness from Schumer until she decides to give monogamy a chance. OK, it takes place on the basketball court at Madison Square Garden, but these things have to start somewhere.
After a decade in the trenches, Amy Schumer has become an overnight sensation. Trainwreck has put her on track on stardom and I suspect this train will continue to roll for many years to come.
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