I don’t think I’m speaking out of church when I say a double standard exists between men and women. I feel like I’m regurgitating a thought that should be passé by now, but here we are as a society condemning sexually assertive women and saluting sexually aggressive men like they’re bros of valor. It’s ridiculously stupid this dissonance exists, but we perpetuate it through all facets of society. Cinema certainly isn’t spared of this nonsense, as studio executives and marketing idiots whittle the human experience, our idiosyncratic personalities, into one-dimensional quadrants bred from ridiculous stereotypes. Films pardon men for their vulgar and indulgent behavior, while women are given permission to roll their eyes at the boys. There are few opportunities where women can play with the men which makes films like Mad Max: Fury Road a breath of fresh air when they’re released. Compounding the effect Mad Max had at cinemas this year is Amy Schumer, a brazen, ballsy comedian who magnified her towering voice through the release of Trainwreck.
Directed by Judd Apatow, a man whose comedies have been distinctly from the male perspective, albeit they’re disarmingly sweet visions, Trainwreck proudly reverses gender expectations. Our protagonist Amy, hilariously created by Schumer, is a bit of a mess. Inspired by her father’s battle against monogamy while she was young, Amy has zero romantic conviction in adulthood. Engaging in a variety of sexual acts with limitless amounts of men, as well as partying at excessive rates, Amy really doesn’t care how she’s perceived. Her unrestrained nature is where she gains her strength. Independent of societal platitudes and working a good paying, but shallow writing gig at a men’s magazine called S’Nuff, Amy lives a good life. But her life changes drastically when her boss (played by a devilish Tilda Swinton) saddles her with a writing assignment about Dr. Aaron Connors (Bill Hader), a sports surgeon. Through the interview process, a romance between the two slowly blossoms, until Aaron’s charms overwhelm Amy’s anti-relationship stance.
In a normal romantic comedy, outside forces threaten the central relationship, usually an ex-partner or a crippling character trait cause romantic schisms, but that doesn’t happen in Trainwreck. Schumer’s screenplay beats the ever-loving shit out of convention. First and foremost, Amy isn’t a character that’s interested in love or becoming a slave to a man. She’s happy with her life, and it’s nice to see a woman whose sole success isn’t contingent on courtship. Schumer also doesn’t treat her character’s hunger for sex and booze as a weakness, especially in relation to Aaron’s life. Rather, they’re an active part of her identity. She is who she is. The relationship between Aaron and Amy is sweet, genuine, and wonderfully measured. The writing plays a huge part in establishing an authenticity between the two, but Schumer and Hader create a dopey, adorable pair that’s simply irresistible. Schumer’s dark comedic sensibilities meld wonderfully with Hader’s grounded, lovable straight man approach. They are perfect for one another.
Surrounding these two hilarious actors is a colorful assortment of supporting players who steal scenes, even from the likes of Schumer and Hader. The two unmatched standouts in the film are John Cena and LeBron James, men who aren’t necessarily known for anything beyond their athletic professions. But both invert their real personas, at times touching some hilariously dark material, and will go down as two of the most engaging performances of the year. If I haven’t stressed it enough, Trainwreck is an uproarious comedy with the biting edge we’ve come to expect from Amy Schumer. But as I’ve already eluded, it is as saccharine as it is filthy. Schumer’s script deserves a lot of credit, as do the actors, but Apatow’s presence behind the camera ties it all together. After having tonal issues in his two previous films, misplaced seriousness was a major issue, Apatow recaptures the tonal balance he found in Knocked Up and The Forty Year Old Virgin. Romantic, funny, and poignant, Trainwreck is everything romantic comedies are not which is exactly why I fell in love with it. I bet you’ll fall in love with it, too.