Wednesday 19 August 2015

Film: 'Trainwreck'

An unusual film, though yet again I'm finding myself out of step with most critics (but not as distant from viewers) who have given it high praise. I think it's attracted positive opinions because the principal character, Amy, played by Amy Schumer, also the screenplay writer, is a thirties-something woman who enjoys a life of one-night stands and short-term, non-serious relationships - while the film displays not the slightest hint of judgment, let alone censure, over her chosen lifestyle. This is indeed refreshing. A man making the same choices would, on film, nearly always be roguishly portrayed as a bit of a 'Jack the Lad' - perhaps getting a comeuppance later, if at all, because of his non-commital acts, but rarely attracting any of the condemnations to which women would usually be subjected.  Additionally, this Amy is not a conventionally glamorous person, visibly a bit overweight and lacking the 'Stepford Wives' concept of manufactured physical beauty, facially and elsewhere. So all that is in its favour.

The film begins with the nine-year old Amy and her sister, younger by four years, being given a lesson from their soon-to-be divorced father that monogamy is not a desirable state. Then it jumps to where we see the approaching middle-aged elder sister in New York living out that very lifestyle, while her younger sibling has been drawn into conventional, though solid marriage, and with a young son. There's no suggestion of envy on the part of Amy. So far so good.
She works writing for a magazine with a hard-hitting, no-nonsense, sassy boss (Tilda Swinton - completely unrecognisable. I was amazed after the film on finding that it had been her!) In their morning meetings with staff (sexual references given free rein of expression) she's given, to her dismay, a project to do an article on a subject she has no inclination towards, sport - and sportsmen.
Her first meeting is with a physio for a team (don't ask me for which sport - netball?). Although she gets off to a prickly start in her first interview, in subsequent meetings there's a mutual melting down of defences between her and (single) Doctor Aaron - and before too long a relationship develops. And at this point I felt that any promise the film had at the start began to dissolve for (wouldn't you know it?) she finds herself falling in love and has to question whether her father-inducted presumptions about life and monogamy were accurate after all. She struggles as she doesn't quite know how to react with her new feelings of wanting, but afraid of, deeper commitment. In some ways I felt that the film betrays itself by joining the dots towards conventionality until, at the very end, the concluding scene is of such astonishing cheesiness and banality that I wondered how it could have been part of the same film. Talk about cringe!

The film's director is that doyen of 'blokey' films, Judd Apatow who, one would think, would have been the polar opposite of what seemingly-feminist writer Amy Schumer wanted to achieve with her material. But the way it ends leads me to think that he may well have been the appropriate one to direct her after all.

There are also several cameo appearances of quite big names, which it might be spoiling things to mention individually, but I wasn't expecting them.

A film of failed promise, then. There are some very good moments but there are also those sloshing around in mushy emotions. Also, at two hours long, it overstayed its welcome by a good half-hour.

A fair enough view - and, I repeat, the initial idea was a very worthy one. Pity it didn't quite live up to it.....................4.5.


  1. We liked it, and I agree about Tilda. What a difference hair and makeup can do to alter a look.
    But the film had a lot of situations and stories that Schumer has used in her standup and on her TV sow so it didn't feel fresh. i find her hilarious, I just wanted some new material.

    1. I hadn't known about Schumer, Bob, and therefore wasn't aware of her reputation as stand-up comedienne. Maybe that was an advantage. I'll look out for her in future as, even if it's only little me saying it, I like where she's coming from and look forward to another screen performance which does her justice.